Boris Johnson announced a nationwide lock-down in a bid to stop the coronavirus outbreak and warned that the police would be called in to enforce it where necessary.

The measures, which can be found in the Government Guidance makes it clear that everyone is required to stay at home, and may only leave their home to:

• to go to work – the point about going to work has been confusing, but was clarified further on publication of the guidance from the Government. People are still permitted to travel to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home. It is not the case that only “key workers” are able to go to work;
• to go to the shop for groceries, medicines and other essentials (as infrequently as possible);
• to exercise outside (once a day) alone or with members of your household;
• to provide care or help a vulnerable person; or
• for any medical need.

Here are some frequently asked questions to help you make decisions about what to do today until further guidance is produced.

Do I have to cease trading immediately?

The Government has announced that all none essential shops such as electrical and clothes stores must close. This means not all business must cease trading. Where businesses are staying open they should be following the government guidance on social distancing and advice on washing their hands, where possible wearing masks and encouraging staff to sanitise hands regularly as well as washing. Where your business is closing, it may be appropriate to furlough those workers.

For the construction industry, the Minister of Housing and Communities has also made it clear that if you’re working on a construction site, then you can continue to do so, but ongoing confusion continues about this, and it may be subject to further guidance.

I am a delivery driver so I don’t have a place of work, can I still work with the travel restrictions?

At this time we consider yes; the Government has encouraged people to stay home and only visit shops where essential and encourage deliveries, where possible. Furthermore, the delivery driver’s role would not be able to be performed from home, and therefore travelling to and from such a place of work would not fall foul of the lock down provisions.

Employers again should follow the guidance on social distancing and only permit one person per vehicle. They should have measures in place for no contact with the deliveries too, respecting the social distancing rules.

**Can I expect employees who have roles they can do from home to still work?
Yes - Provided they can still conduct their role from home or at least some of it, and the business is still able to offer them work, they can continue working as normal. This will mean that their usual entitlements to pay and benefits should also remain in place, at this time. Employers should be making all efforts to work out ways in which people can work from home, as the guidance is clear that people should only be continuing to travel to work where it absolutely cannot be done from home.

My staff are office based and we haven’t moved to home working as the Government only advised to do this if possible does this mean we have to provide home working now?

The Government has said, only where it is impossible to work from home should you be travelling to work. Where employees and employers can come to an agreement about working from home, where its office based, for example, they can move to homeworking. This may require the employee to use their own equipment for some time until the employer is able to fully implement everything needed. We released a blog on how to prepare for remote working here.

Can I expect parents looking after children during a lock-down to work from home? If not, do I need to pay them?

These are unusual times. We have discussed in our previous blog that the school closures have put far reaching pressures on employees who have children at this time. We suggest that employers should be thinking outside the box; if the employee can work from home, you must try and facilitate this from today.

If other parts of my workforce can’t work from home, do I still need to pay them?

If you have to close the business and there is no work for them, then staff in this situation will technically be laid-off or potentially facing redundancy. Employers should bear in mind that the Government has recently announced the Coronvairus Job Retention Scheme, assisting businesses in this situation, which may be an option to consider before laying off or making anyone redundant, especially where the reason is the current crisis and where you may need those staff again once this is all over. We can draft the agreements to ensure the furlough is agreed properly should you need us to as it must comply with employment law.

Coronavirus Bill: proposed protection for freelancers and self employed

In a long awaited update, the Government have made an amendment to the coronavirus bill which (if accepted) will entitle freelancers and self-employed people to what’s termed “statutory self-employment pay”.

If this change is accepted then it will mean that self employed and freelance (undefined) workers will have their income “topped up” by the Government to the lower earnings of:

• 80% of their monthly net earnings, averaged over the last three years; or
• £2,917 per month.

Whichever one of those is lower.

This amendment would mean that self-employed workers are entitled to the same as employees on furlough and would receive the lower of 80% of their net monthly earnings or £2,917 a month.

We have curated a FREE Coronavirus tool with Champion Health to help you learn more about the precautions we need to take, how it is affecting our mental health and the latest government guidelines.

The Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was announced on Friday, with the intention of reducing the number of layoffs and redundancies. The Scheme will essentially pay some of the salaries for those members of staff who would have otherwise been redundant or laid off. Instead they are retained as employees, but 80% of the salary (up to £2,500) will be paid for, for 3 months, by the Government under this Scheme. You can read our blog here.

Our Coronavirus enquiries email service remains online; if you have any questions at all, we will respond within 48 hours. We’re really passionate about guiding businesses through these difficult times, with as much compassion as possible for the employees Please do get in touch a