New national lockdowns – what do I need to do from a Health & Safety perspective?

Women with face covering

Please Note: All information correct at time of writing on 8 January 2021. We do our very best to make sure our information is as up to date as possible, but we’d encourage you to check the relevant government websites for updates as they happen.

England, Wales and Northern Ireland and Scotland are now in national lockdowns.

As with the first lockdown implemented in March last year, employers should be aware of the rules and guidance for their country and region for self-isolation, quarantine, workplaces required to close and who can and can’t come to work.

Businesses permitted to stay open should make sure they’ve assessed the risks from the transmission of COVID-19 in their workplace and put measures in place to protect those working or visiting the workplace.

Where people can’t work from home they should continue to travel to their workplace unless of course, it’s one that is legally required to close. In all countries, employers should take every reasonable, practical step to facilitate their employees working from home. There are differences in the rules for going to work for each country and we have set these out in the table below.

As this is an ever-changing situation, it’s important to be aware of the latest rules and guidance especially as the rules differ between each country and in some cases, by area. Regional guidance can be found at the official sites:

  • England’s can be accessed here
  • Welsh guidelines here
  • Scotland’s government website here
  • Northern Ireland’s guidance here

The non-governmental organisation, The Institute for Government, has a useful set of tables showing the different rules for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which you can access here.

For Scotland, which is still operating the tier system, specific information about each tier is available here and is updated weekly.

Guidelines by country

Below, our experts have summarised the different rules and guidelines between England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Who can and can’t go to work?

NationDifferences in the rules for going to work
EnglandYou may only go to work if you cannot reasonably work from home.

Workplaces should follow COVID-secure guidelines including carrying out a COVID-19 risk assessment, introducing increased hygiene and cleaning procedures, maintaining social distancing where possible, and where this is not possible, steps must be taken to manage transmission risk.

ScotlandScottish government advice is that, where possible, people should work from home.

Businesses are advised only to reopen if their business is listed in the relevant phase, and they are confident that the workforce can practice social distancing and comply with Health & Safety standards.

WalesPeople are advised to work from home where possible.

Welsh government guidance states that where it’s not possible to work from home “employers must comply with a physical distancing duty, which means all reasonable measures must be taken to ensure a two-metre distance is maintained between people while working.

Northern IrelandPeople are advised to work from home where possible.

Workplaces not required to close can continue to operate but must follow social distancing and workplace safety guidance. The Department for the Economy has published a list of priority business sectors which should be supported to reopen.

Social distancing guidelines

There are some key differences in social distancing guidelines between the devolved government. Below, we’ve summarised those key differences.

EnglandScotlandWalesNorthern Ireland
Social distancing guidelines1 metre plus mitigation – where possible people should remain 2 metres apart, if this is not possible, they should take precautions to limit transmission.People must remain 2 metres apart from each other. 1 metre distancing applies in some sectors. Children under 12 do not have to social distanceGovernment guidance is that people must remain 2 metres apart from each other. By law, employers must take all reasonable measures to ensure a 2 metre distance.Social distancing still means 2 metres, but can be reduced to 1 metre plus mitigation in some settings

Working on people’s homes

If your business involves working on or in people’s homes, there are certain rules you need to abide by to keep these visits safe and COVID-secure. We’ve summarised the devolved governments’ guidelines below.

EnglandScotlandWalesNorthern Ireland
Where necessary work can still go ahead provided COVID-secure guidance is followed.People should only go into a house to carry out or deliver essential work or services.Repairs, maintenance, activities related to home moves, construction work, gardening or domestic cleaners can continue provided safe procedures are followed.Tradespeople and other professionals can continue to go into people’s houses to carry out work such as repairs, installations and deliveries.

Citation can be with you at every step

We understand these are difficult times and with guidance constantly changing it can be difficult to keep up to date. The Citation Health & Safety advice line is available 24/7 and are happy to talk you about your needs and adapting your business to the new lockdown guidance. You can give us a call, any time of the day or night, on 0345 844 4848.

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