COVID-19: government releases guidance on ‘key workers’ and childcare requirements

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Please Note: All information correct at time of writing on 20 March 2020. We do our very best to make sure our information is as up to date as possible, but we’d encourage you to check out our latest articles and to check the government website for updates as they happen.

The government published its guidance on childcare within schools late last night, which is available in full on their website, here.

The government has stressed:

  • If it is possible for children to stay at home, they should stay at home
  • Parents should not rely on childcare from people who have been told to be more “stringent” with social distancing – the examples cited are those over 70 and people with underlying medical conditions
  • Parents do everything possible to ensure their children are not mixing socially and obey the same social distancing guidance as adults
  • Residential special schools, boarding schools and special settings will continue to care for children wherever possible

If employees think they fall into one of the key categories, they are advised to confirm with their employers that their role is necessary for the continuation of essential public services (detailed below).

Only one parent needs to be considered a key worker and in the event their normal school is closed, parents are advised to contact their local authority for details of an alternative school they can attend.

The government guidance states:

“If your work is critical to the COVID-19 response, or you work in one of the critical sectors listed below, and you cannot keep your child safe at home then your children will be prioritised for education provision”. This would suggest that an employee could argue that their role was critical, even though it is not listed."

Who does the government define as ‘key workers’?

The government’s guidance outlines in greater detail who they are classing as ‘key workers’. We’ve outlined their definitions below.

Health and social care

This includes but is not limited to doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributors of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.

Education and childcare

This includes nursery and teaching staff, social workers and those specialist education professionals who must remain active during the COVID-19 response to deliver this approach.

Key public services

This includes those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services, those responsible for the management of the deceased, and journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting.

Local and national government

This only includes those administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the COVID-19 response or delivering essential public services such as the payment of benefits, including in government agencies and arms-length bodies.

Food and other necessary goods

This includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines).

Public safety and national security

This includes police and support staff, Ministry of Defence civilians, contractor and armed forces personnel (those critical to the delivery of key defence and national security outputs and essential to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic), fire and rescue service employees (including support staff), National Crime Agency staff, those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles, including those overseas.


This includes those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the COVID-19 response, including those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass.

Utilities, communication and financial services

This includes staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure), the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage), information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the COVID-19 response, as well as key staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 critical services), postal services and delivery, payments providers and waste disposal sectors.

Vulnerable Children

 Schools will also be continuing to provide care for vulnerable children, defined as children:

  • on child protection plans
  • on child in need plans
  • ‘looked after’ children (children who have been in local authority care for more than 24 hours)
  • young carers
  • disabled children and
  • those with education, health and care plans

Tracking key measures to fight COVID-19 and keeping your business up to date

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Keep an eye on our latest articles and free guides for our latest advice. And if you’d like to speak to our team about how we can help your business with your HR, Employment Law and Health & Safety responsibilities in this time of great change, contact us on 0345 844 1111 or fill in the form opposite and we can give you a call back.

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