As a measure to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, the Government published a list of those businesses and venues that must close and set out various exemptions on 23rd March 2020.
For many of those employers not on the list, the last couple of weeks has seen them grapple with the moral and financial dilemma of whether they should continue to operate in view of the Government plea for everyone to stay at home, where possible.
Much discussion has been had about key workers and the obvious frontline operations that should continue, such as health and social care and education. However, the Government has not expressly (beyond the aforementioned guidance) said that all work should stop. Indeed, it remains important for many businesses to continue to operate where they can safely to help preserve the economy.
Changes in business operations
Many businesses have implemented home working, reduced operating times and furloughed staff in response to the dramatic downturn in demand for their goods and services. For those businesses still in high demand, absent any instruction to close it has been for the employer to decide whether or not to continue and, in turn, to require staff to attend work.
For those who remain open for service, most if not all organisations have had to adjust the manner in which they operate. This has included rotating shift patterns, spreading staff around the premises, stopping people from travelling together and enhanced cleaning and sanitisation rules all designed to minimise staff and client contact and assist in stopping the spread of the virus.
Industry specific guidance on social distancing in the workplace
Yesterday, the Government published some long awaited industry specific guidance on social distancing in the workplace.
Whilst much of it is common sense and/or already been implemented by many employers in line with general guidance, it should help those businesses who are unsure on how they can adjust their operations and, at the very least, give some comfort to those organisations who fall in to these categories that the Government recognises that they are continuing to operate.