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What do the new government guidelines mean for your business?

As the country finds itself amidst another spike in Coronavirus rates, the government has recently introduced new rulings around business practices alongside a new three-tiered system intended to stem the rise in infections across the UK.

In this article, we explore the most prominent of the new rulings that will affect all businesses around the UK, regardless of what tier they are in, and what they may mean for your business.

Staff should work from home where they can

Applies to: Tier 1, 2 and 3

Despite recently attempting to get the UK back to offices and back to work in order to give the economy a much-needed boost, the government have found themselves resolving to ask workers to once more work from home if they can. This advice, to many, can be quite vague and has left some business owners wondering whether to bring their staff back or have them working from home.

To offer more clarity, Cabinet Minister Michael Gove told the BBC, “If you are in a COVID-secure workplace, then you should be there if your job requires it.” Alternatively, you should work from home.

When it comes to assessing whether your staff should be working from home or not, we suggest asking yourselves these questions:

  • Do my staff have all the equipment they need to work effectively from home?

If no, then your staff should be coming into work. If yes, ask yourself the next question.

  • Is production/efficiency going to slow to an unworkable rate with my staff working from home?

If the answer is yes, you might want to consider having your staff in the office, even if this is only on a part-time basis. If no, then you should encourage your staff to work from home.

In the instance where staff do have to come into work, as Michael Gove said, ensuring that the workplace is COVID-secure is essential. If the workplace would be unsafe for workers, then it should be made safe before their return.

Staff should wear facemasks whilst working in hospitality and retail

Applies to: Tier 1, 2 and 3

Another new rule is that those working in hospitality and retail should now wear facemasks. For businesses who operate in this sector, ensuring your staff have ample protection can not only encourage customers to do the same and send out a positive message of safety, but it also shows your staff that you are doing all you can to preserve their health and safety in this hard time.

Can staff wear visors instead of facemasks?

There is no clear guidance on whether visors are acceptable in place of facemasks, however, there is evidence to say that no, you cannot substitute a facemask for a visor. When defining a face covering, the government website says: “In the context of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, a face covering is something which safely covers the nose and mouth. You can buy reusable or single-use face coverings. You may also use a scarf, bandana, religious garment or hand-made cloth covering but these must securely fit round the side of the face.”

As a visor does not fit securely around the side of the face, it can be determined that this would not class as a face covering.

Do staff have to wear face masks in offices?

When it comes to staff in offices and places of work that aren’t open directly to the public, the rules again become more interpretive. The government website explains: “For other indoor settings, employers should assess the use of face coverings on a case by case basis depending on the workplace environment, other appropriate mitigations they have put in place, and whether reasonable exemptions apply.”

If your business falls into this category you can assess whether face coverings are necessary. If you are unsure, this is something that can be spoken about with staff to find out what they are most comfortable with. It’s better to be overcautious than under-protected.

Hospitality establishments should shut at 10 pm and utilise table service

Applies to: Tier 1 and 2

The final major rule that affects UK businesses is that it states hospitality establishments like cafes, restaurants and bars must close at 10 pm. This came into place on the 24th of September, and like the other rules is expected to last at least six months.

Additionally, all establishments (apart from takeaways) will have to offer table service to customers in order to minimise mingling between groups and movement. This means that businesses who didn’t previously offer this service have had to introduce it quickly, a significant thing to have to do during this time.

With these hospitality rules, the guidance is clear and concise and by now, all businesses who are affected should be compliant. For businesses who don’t comply with these rules or others, the fines can be up to £10,000.

Further restrictions for Tier 2 and 3

For businesses who are in areas that are covered by either Tier 2 or Tier 3 lockdown, there are stricter rules to follow. Depending on the kind of business you operate, the rules may have a larger or lesser effect on you. Discover a quick run-down of some of the rules that may affect your business below:

Tier 2:

  • People cannot socialise with anybody outside of their household or support bubble indoors

Tier 3:

  • People cannot socialise with anybody outside of their household or support bubble
  • Pubs and bars can only remain open is they offer ‘substantial meals’
  • Wedding receptions are not allowed
  • Travelling outside of a very high-level alert area should be avoided

These are just some of the further restrictions placed on Tier 2 and 3 areas and we would advise any business owner to do their own research if in one of these areas.

This is certainly a unique and tumultuous time for business owners who are being forced to navigate scenarios that no-one could predict. For those who are looking for business assistance, at Phase 3 we offer a range of aides from hr systems to business continuity plans. It’s a tricky time, of that there is no doubt, but with the right systems in place, you can make your journey smoother.

For advice on payroll, HR and other areas of people management, explore our blog

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