On 4 January the Prime Minister announced a new national lockdown lasting at least until 15 February with the key message that people should stay at home, except for a few permitted reasons such as essential medical needs, food shopping, exercise and work.
The guidance on work states that you can only leave home for work purposes where you cannot reasonably work from home. Examples of roles that cannot be done from home include those within critical national infrastructure, construction or manufacturing that require in-person attendance. People in such roles should continue to travel to their workplace, as can public sector employees working in essential services such as childcare or education, and people who work in other people's homes. Guidance on which businesses and venues should close and a full list of those permitted to remain open, subject to following COVID-19 secure guidelines, can be found here.
The Government has again reiterated that employers should discuss working arrangements with their employees and that every possible step should be taken to enable remote working, including providing suitable IT and equipment.
Also on 4 January, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon issued a stay-at-home order for Scotland lasting until 31 January. Wales has been in a national lockdown since 20 December, while Northern Ireland entered a six-week lockdown on 26 December. For specific guidance that applies to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland see ‘Devolved Administrations’ in the ‘UK Government advice on social distancing’ section below
‘Returning to the workplace’ research: workers want more flexibility in future and other game-changing findings
Following the onset of COVID-19 social distancing measures in the UK in March 2020, many workers were thrown into a ‘national home-working experiment’ as workplaces shut down, often fully, and remote working became the norm.
In response to this, IWFM commissioned time-series research into UK office workers’ experiences, attitudes, and concerns regarding the future easing of COVID-19 lockdown measures and the gradual return to work. This took the form of two YouGov surveys: one in April and another in June to track any changes and, indeed, consistencies over time. The intent: to shine a light on what our future workplaces may become and how organisations may need to adapt to employee needs and attitudes.
The results have highlighted a range of potentially game-changing findings that could signal fundamental changes to how many of us live and work, as well as how organisations will attract employees.
Workplace and facilities managers will need to prepare buildings ready for reoccupation within the limits set by social distancing imperatives and help their organisations adjust, at pace, to a new set of operating norms. This kind of change programme requires professional leadership and represents a great opportunity for FMs to demonstrate the added value they offer in bringing together the space, culture and technology aspects of workplace into a workplace strategy which can enable organisations and individuals to remain productive.
The UK Government has announced that, effective from 2 December 2020, new local tier rules will apply.
Business and commercial activity – including the provision of FM services, maintenance and essential repair work – should continue if it can be carried out in accordance with UK Government guidance on social distancing (click here for details).
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Anyone in the UK who is displaying coronavirus symptoms is eligible for a test.
From December, there will be weekly tests for staff in prisons, food manufacturers and those delivering and administering vaccines. Testing will also be done to help schools and universities keep people safe.
The UK Government is asking employers to encourage workers to heed any notifications to self-isolate under the NHS test and trace service. Guidance for employers, workers and self-employed people - including on self-isolation and financial support - if someone in the workplace is contacted by NHS Test and Trace, is available here.
Additional guidance is provided on the testing process, when and where to get tests and testing in care homes.
Your COVID-19 risk assessment should inform you about any need for PPE or the use of face coverings. The UK Government has stated that any PPE currently used for non-COVID-19 risks should continue to be used, but that additional PPE is not beneficial except in clinical settings or a small number of other workplaces, or when responding to a suspected or confirmed case of the virus. However, if your risk assessment does show the risk of transmission is very high and that PPE is required, then you must provide the appropriate PPE free of charge to workers who need it. UK Government advice on COVID-19 PPE can be found here.
This section provides advice and guidance for preparing buildings for re-use, covering health and hygiene, utilities, fire safety, security, cyber security, and other practices which will help to ensure safety at work for employees, contractors and other building users.
UK Government advice and guidance:
GOV UK: workplace guidance on the NHS test and trace service
GOV UK: mental health and wellbeing aspects of COVID-19
GOV UK: support for businesses and employers during coronavirus
GOV UK: general guidance for employees during coronavirus
GOV UK: implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings
CBI: the latest information, insight and support for businesses