On 20 December 2020, a fourth tier of COVID-19 restrictions (Tier 4: Stay at Home) came into effect in England. London and much of the South East of England have been placed into Tier 4. It is expected that other areas of England will become subject to Tier 4 restrictions in the New Year.
For those employers operating in Tier 4, it is important to be aware that:
1. Residents of Tier 4 areas in England must not leave or be outside of their home without a "reasonable excuse". It is a reasonable excuse to leave home in a Tier 4 area where it is “reasonably necessary for the purposes of work and it is not reasonably possible to work from home”. However, new guidance on Tier 4 restrictions makes it clear that where people cannot work from home, including but not limited to people who work in critical national infrastructure, construction, or manufacturing they should continue to travel to their workplace. The Government states that this is essential to keeping the country operating. This means that if you are operating a business in a Tier 4 area, you are legally obliged to facilitate home working wherever possible. However, employees can continue to attend work where this is not possible.
2. If your business has been forced to close under the Tier 4 restrictions, eligible employees can be furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). The CJRS will now run until 30 April 2021. Our detailed note on the extended CJRS can be viewed here.
3. Shielding ended in England on 1 August 2020 but updated guidance on protecting clinically extremely vulnerable people recommends that clinically extremely vulnerable people in Tier 4 areas follow shielding guidance. They are strongly advised to work from home and should not attend work if they are unable to work from home. Where clinically vulnerable employees in Tier 4 areas are unable to work from home, they can be furloughed subject to the normal eligibility requirements. Updated guidance for protecting clinically vulnerable people can be viewed at the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19
For those employers operating in other tiers, careful consideration should still be given to the updated guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people. Employees working in Tiers 1-3 should work from home where possible but they can still attend work if they are unable to work from home, as any open work place should be “COVID-Secure”. However, where a clinically extremely vulnerable person is concerned about attending the workplace, it may be appropriate to place the employee on furlough under the CJRS and consideration should be given to this option.
Taylor Walton is able to assist with queries relating to operating your business under the new restrictions including arrangements for home working, consideration of issues relating to a clinically extremely vulnerable employee and furlough arrangements.
Members of the Taylor Walton Employment Team are available to assist you with any employment law queries or concerns arising out of the Coronavirus Pandemic including the CJRS. In the first instance please contact: Alec Colson on firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07711 589574.