international employment law firm alliance L&E Global
United Kingdom

UK: Governments Publish Roadmaps for Easing COVID-19 Restrictions

Covid-19 response – Spring 2021 outlines four steps for easing restrictions in England. Step 1 starts on 8 March 2021 with schools reopening and the easing of restrictions on childcare where necessary to enable parents to work. Some sectors of the economy, including outdoor hospitality and indoor leisure facilities, will re-open in step 2 (not before 12 April 2021), with further sectors, including indoor entertainment/ attractions and large outdoor events, re-opening in step 3 (not before 17 May 2021). People should continue to work from home where they can during steps 1-3.

Free test kits for workplaces where staff cannot work from home will continue to be provided until the end of June 2021. Organisations need to register their interest for this before 31 March 2021.

The government expects that the clinically extremely vulnerable will no longer be advised to shield after 31 March 2021, but will confirm the position nearer the time.

In Scotland, the Covid-19: Strategic Framework update-February 2021 sets out a return to a tiered system from the last week in April. Scotland’s framework is staggered by three weeks, two weeks slower than in England. The five-level system should see the whole of Scotland exit Level 4 and drop down to Level 3, which would see a phased reopening of the economy – including non-essential retail, hospitality and services like gyms and hairdressers – from April 26. Until it is considered safe for workplaces to reopen, anyone who can work from home must do so.

Practical point

In England, ahead of Step 4 (not before 21 June 2021), the government will complete a review of measures to limit transmission of the virus (social distancing etc.) which will help inform decisions on the timing and circumstances under which these measures may be lifted, and on guidance on working from home. The review will also consider whether ‘vaccine passports’ could play a role in reducing risk and enabling a relaxation of the COVID-secure guidance in workplaces. In the Budget on 3 March 2021, the Chancellor confirmed that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which was due to end on 30 April, will be further extended to the end of September 2021.


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