Government preparing to issue guidelines on returning to work

It invited submissions by Thursday from businesses, trade bodies, unions and other workers representatives on how best to slowly restart the UK economy.

It's thought the proposals will not be split bluntly by sector but by working environment.

But there is no confirmed date yet for when such a restart will occur.

Unions, large firms and business groups have been consulted on seven areas:

  • Outdoor work - including agriculture, construction and energy

  • Non-food retail - high street

  • Transport and logistics

  • Manufacturing - including food processing and engineering

  • Indoor work - offices, laboratories, call centres

  • Work in the home - plumbers, painters and decorators, carers

  • Hospitality and leisure - pubs clubs restaurants cinemas theatres

The position papers are expected to comprise a set of broad guidelines based on these discussions, which will not be too prescriptive as to be inflexible, and given it would be impossible to examine individual premises, it's thought companies will be allowed to self-certify they are in compliance with the guidelines.

The government wants to involve unions and the Health and Safety executive to endorse the plans and to both get buy-in from workers, and provide a channel for any worker concerns at the new arrangements.

Guidelines for reopening businesses

The principles may not necessarily insist that workers strictly observe a two-metre social distancing rule.

In situations where workers may be required to be closer than two metres, the guidelines may insist on mitigating measures such as wearing protective masks or clothing, or where possible work back-to-back, rather than face-to-face.

Union sources say these are very early principles and would not, on their own, create a satisfactory basis for a return to work. They have said much more detailed technical work will be required.

There are some sectors which the government has acknowledged will be unable to function at any significant level for many weeks and possibly months to come, in particular hospitality and leisure.