Here’s who can go back to work as government updates lockdown guidance

Monday, 11th May 2020, 3:24 pm
Updated Monday, 11th May 2020, 3:28 pm
In the latest government lockdown guidelines, Boris Johnson has updated previous advice, stating that people who cannot work from home should now be “actively encouraged” to return to work (Photo:TOLGA AKMEN/Getty)

In the latest government lockdown guidelines, Boris Johnson has updated previous advice, stating that people who cannot work from home should now be “actively encouraged” to return to work.

But when does this come into place and who does it include?

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Here’s what you need to know.

What did Boris Johnson say about returning to work?

In his address to the nation on Sunday evening (10 May) the prime minister explained the government was changing its coronavirus guidance in regards to working from home.

Johnson said people should work from home if they can, but that they should return to work if they cannot do their job from home, which is a change from previous guidelines.

Johnson said: “We said that you should work from home if you can, and only go to work if you must.

“We now need to stress that anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work.”

These new rules currently apply to England only. The devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are continuing with their former slogan of “Stay at home.” They are not encouraging people to return to work.

When does the guidance come into place?

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab clarified on Monday (11 May) that new workplace and public transport guidance for British citizens would not come in until Wednesday 13 May.

Who can return to work?

As Johnson stated in his speech to the nation, those who work in construction or manufacturing are “actively encouraged” to go to work.

The government’s new guidance document, named Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy, states “All workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open.

“Sectors of the economy that are allowed to be open should be open, for example this includes food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific research in laboratories.

"The only exceptions to this are those workplaces such as hospitality and nonessential retail which during this first step the Government is requiring to remain closed.”

Last week, on May 4, the government updated their advice regarding cleaners and and tradespeople.

The guidance said: “You can continue work, providing that you are well and have no symptoms. No work should be carried out by a tradesperson, cleaner or nanny who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild, or when someone in their own household has symptoms.”

The guidance added, “If you are a tradesperson or cleaner, you should maintain a safe distance (at least 2 metres) from any household occupants at all times, and ensure good ventilation in the area where you are working, including opening the window.”

Can workers use public transport?

Workers have been asked to avoid public transport wherever possible in order to help keep social distancing measures in place.

“We want it to be safe for you to get to work so you should avoid public transport if at all possible – because we must and will maintain social distancing, and capacity will therefore be limited,” added Johnson.

Will workplaces be safe?

Johnson has said that the government had been working on new guidance for employers to make workplaces “Covid-secure”. The ‘recovery strategy’ document explains, “As soon as practicable, workplaces should follow the new ‘COVID-19 Secure’ guidelines”, which are due to be published this week.

These “will ensure the risk of infection is as low as possible, while allowing as many people as possible to resume their livelihoods.”

The section in the strategy document which outlines the “Covid-19 Secure’ guidelines, explains “The Government has been consulting relevant sectors, industry bodies, local authorities, trades unions, the Health and Safety Executive and Public Health England on their development and will release them this week.”

Paddy Lillis, general secretary of the trade union Usdaw, said employees needed a guarantee that workplaces are safe before they return to work.

He said: “We have emphasised safety first in all the discussions we’ve had with the government.

“Non-food retail should only start trading again when expert public health advice agrees, but even then we must have a guarantee that the right policies and practices are in place to make workplaces safe."

What about childcare?

You can still only send your children to school if you are a key worker, so it remains unclear what happens with childcare for those being asked to return to work.