Boris Johnson announced on Monday a new three-tier system of local Covid alert levels designed to limit the spread of Coronavirus. The new system has been introduced in England in light of rising cases of Coronavirus, with warnings that the NHS could be stretched to its limit in a matter of weeks.
A number of areas within England have been subject to local lockdowns in recent weeks. The new ‘traffic light’ alert system is designed to simplify the introduction of measures in the worst-affected areas. Wales and Scotland are expected to introduce similar measures, and areas of both devolved nations remain subject to local lockdown restrictions.
The tier allocated to a given area will be determined based on the rate of infection within that area. Under Tier 1 ‘Medium’ alert, the restrictions mirror those currently in place for most of England. Restrictions will increase for those localities falling within in Tier 2 ‘High’ alert. Where the restrictions under Tier 2 fail to reduce the rate of transmission, areas will be moved into Tier 3 ‘Very High’ alert which imposes the most severe restrictions.
We are still waiting for further government guidance and clarification, but the following provides a summary of what the new Tier system means:
Tier 1 ‘Medium’:
Infection rate: fewer than 100 cases per 100,000 people.
- The ‘rule of six’ limiting social gatherings or meetings both indoors and outdoors;
- Wedding and civil partnership ceremonies limited to 15 attendees; and
- Funerals limited to 30 attendees.
Tier 2 ‘High’:
Infection rate: over 100 cases per 100,000 people
- No mixing of households within private dwellings except where a ‘support bubble’ has been formed;
- Outdoor meetings subject to the ‘rule of six’;
- No mixing of households within hospitality settings.
Tier 3 – ‘Very High’:
Tier 3 will be enforced where the rate of transmission has not reduced despite the introduction of measures under Tier 2.
- No social contact between households indoors or in private gardens;
- Pubs and bars will be closed to the public (unless they qualify as a restaurant);
- Discretion for local authority to introduce new measures if appropriate.
What will the impact be on employers?
- All business sectors currently permitted to operate can remain open. Guidance relating to making the workplace or venue ‘Covid-secure’ will remain relevant.
- Face coverings within hospitality and other public settings will remain mandatory, and employers are encouraged to use screens, where possible, to limit contact.
- Curfews on opening times of restaurants and pubs will continue to apply, restricting trade between 10pm and 5am.
- Government guidance on working from home, where possible, will remain unchanged.
- Households will not be permitted to gather socially indoors, which will also apply to hospitality venues. As with Tier 1, businesses open to the public should continue to observe guidance on the use of face coverings, screens and retaining details of visitors for the purposes of the track and trace systems.
- The severe restrictions imposed by an area within Tier 3 will see pubs and bars shut unless they are able to operate as a restaurant. Local authorities will be granted the power to extend the closure of businesses to include other businesses. The Liverpool City region is the first area which will move into the Tier 3 Very High alert level from Wednesday 14 October and has taken the decision to also close gyms and leisure centres, betting shops and casinos in addition to pubs and bars.
- Restrictions at Tier 3 will be reviewed after 4 weeks.
Travelling for Work in a Tier 3 area
Government guidance issued this morning clarifies the travel restrictions in tier 3: “People should try to avoid travelling outside the ‘Very High’ area they are in, or entering a ‘Very High’ area, other than for things like work, education, accessing youth services, to meet caring responsibilities or if they are in transit.”
Employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of their staff and visitors to the workplace and this should be of paramount consideration when interpreting the new measures and travel requirements of staff. Employers with workers who live in a Tier 3 area should strongly encourage home working, if possible, in order to minimise unnecessary travel to the workplace. Similarly, employers who operate workplaces situated within an area subject to Tier 3 restrictions should dissuade employees who reside outside of the Tier 3 area from travelling into the region and potentially risking the spread of the virus between areas.
Employers who are forced to shut due to the introduction of strict measures within the local area may be eligible to receive government assistance via the Coronavirus Job Support Scheme. The scheme is designed to support employers by covering employees’ wages, and is designed to replace the furlough scheme which is due to come to an end on 31 October 2020. Further details about the scheme can be found in our article published on Friday 9 October - https://www.aaronandpartners.com/hospitality-lifeline-chancellors-announcement-of-support-for-employers-in-the-face-of-imminent-local-shutdowns/
Debbie Coyne – Senior Associate – Debbie.firstname.lastname@example.org