Everything You Need to Know about the New Government Guidelines on COVID-19

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Covid-19 Government guidelines

We’ve put together an overview of the government’s latest guidance on COVID-19, covering everything from reopening your business, to social distancing to its proposed timeframes for moving out of the current lockdown. We hope this will help you get your business up and running while keeping your staff, and yourself, as safe as possible.

The UK Prime Minister’s COVID-19 (coronavirus) announcement on Sunday 10th May was highly anticipated, as business owners across the country sought clarity on when they could potentially reopen. Unfortunately, it seemed to confuse rather than reassure, and many people are now left feeling a bit lost about what they can and can’t do.

Luckily, we’ve combed through the government’s full 50 page guidance, “Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy”, and put together a straightforward overview of what businesses across the UK are now allowed to do and how they’ll need to adapt. As always, we’ll be updating this page in light of any new guidance that’s issued, as well as posting regular COVID-19 content to help the country’s franchisees and business owners through this trying time.

What has changed?

The Government states that the changes in guidance, which came into effect from Wednesday 13th May, will be ‘step one’ of its plan to move the country out of a full ‘lockdown’. These new measures will only apply to businesses in England – Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have chosen to stick with tighter restrictions for the time being. Boris Johnson specifically stated that workers in construction and manufacturing should be encouraged to return to work. He also said that anyone who cannot work from home should go back to work as soon as they’re able, particularly in key industries like:

  • Food production
  • Logistics
  • Distribution
  • Scientific research laboratories

Johnson recommended these workers to avoid using public transport to minimise their social contact, if at all possible. However, the Prime Minister strongly encouraged those who can work from home to continue doing so for the “foreseeable future”. This will allow essential workers to use public transport (if they have no other choice) and public places without crowds.

Businesses that were ordered to shut their doors, like restaurant franchises, beauty franchises and hair salon and barber franchises, must also remain closed for now. However, the Government’s furlough scheme has been extended to October, and greater flexibility has been introduced to allow staff to work part-time if they can (though more clarification was needed regarding these changes at the time of writing).

What does the government’s guidance mean for businesses?

The Government has published eight new ‘Covid secure’ guideline documents for different kinds workplaces. They cover:

  • Construction and other outdoor work
  • Factories, plants and warehouses
  • Labs and research facilities
  • Offices and contact centres
  • Other people’s homes
  • Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery
  • Shops and branches
  • Vehicles

The guidance varies for each environment but, essentially, it encourages employers to keep their staff at a safe distance from each other. Measures for places like offices include:

  • Using screens or barriers to separate people from each other.
  • Avoiding placing people face-to-face (at opposite desks or computers) and using back-to-back or side-to-side layouts instead.

If it’s not possible to socially distance, the guidance urges employers to use fixed teams or ‘partnering’ to minimise how many people are in close contact. This is likely to be necessary in sectors like manufacturing and construction, where you may need multiple people to install or lift items. The guidance also reminds employers that their staff are not obliged to work in an unsafe work environment that hasn’t adjusted to the new Covid safe guidelines.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also stated that “employers will not be allowed to get away with forcing people to work in conditions that are not Covid secure". He also explained that workplaces should expect more frequent health and safety checks, saying “random spot inspections” would be used to make sure companies are sticking to the guidance.

The government’s report also asserted that, if the virus begins to spread more rapidly, “the Government will have to tighten restrictions, possibly at short notice”. So, it’s very important to stay up-to-date with the latest developments using reliable sources like www.gov.uk/coronavirus to make sure your business is operating in line with the guidance.

What are the next steps?

From June 1st, the Government is hoping to move even closer to a sense of normality. Step two will potentially allow non-essential retail businesses to reopen, such as clothing shops. Sports events like football matches could take place behind closed doors for broadcast, but there’s no guidance as yet on whether businesses like sports franchises could be allowed to run classes again.

Step Three, which the Government has said will come no earlier than July 4th, could see personal care businesses (hairdressers, beauty salons and mobile beauty providers) reopen. Hospitality businesses like restaurants, pubs and hotels could also be allowed to welcome customers once again, as long as the UK’s number of cases continues to fall.

The Government says that it’s keen to “open as many businesses and public places” as it can, in line with the scientific guidance. The next few weeks will be crucial and give a better idea of how quickly England can move out of lockdown, or whether the measures introduced from the 13th need to be tightened again.

How will this affect my business?

For many businesses, this is good news. If your franchise or business doesn’t lend itself to home-working, there’s now clear guidance on how you can safely get your team back to work. Even if you’re in one of the industries that still can’t return to operation, a clear timeframe is likely to make it easier for you to plan. You can look at vital things like cash flow and when you might be able to reinstate your employees from furlough now you’ve got a clearer sense of the future.

Moving forward safely

It’s absolutely crucial that employers across the country stick to the new government guidelines. Encouraging your team to stay at home if they can, or strictly enforcing social distancing and protection measures for employees and clients if they can’t, will stop a second spike in COVID-19 cases. It looks like there are still a tough few months ahead for the UK, but this ‘new normal’ for workplaces could signal a way out of the economic and public health crisis we currently face.

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