Can I keep my workplace open during the Coronavirus pandemic?
Current guidance is for everyone to work at home if possible and only to leave the home to go to work where absolutely necessary. This has led to confusion about what those businesses incapable of working from home should do and how they balance performing contractual commitments with protecting employees. The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force on 26 March 2020 and attempts to provide much needed clarity.
Under the Regulations certain businesses outlined in schedules are subject to restrictions during the emergency period, which began on 26 March 2020 and continues until withdrawn by the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State will review whether the Regulations can be relaxed every 21 days. Failure to comply with the restrictions set out in the Regulations is a criminal offence and can lead to a mandatory fine.
What are the key impacts of the Regulations on businesses?
- Part 1, Schedule 2 of the Regulations requires listed businesses such as restaurants, cafés, Bars and Public Houses to close their premises (including any outside seating). They are permitted to continue to provide takeaways and deliveries.
- Part 2, Schedule 2 of the Regulations requires certain types of listed businesses that generally include groups of people to close completely. The list includes; Cinemas, Theatres, Nightclubs, Gyms, Leisure Centres, Barbers and nail/beauty salons.
- Part 3, Schedule 2 of the Regulations permits certain specified businesses deemed to offer essential services to remain open. The list of permitted businesses includes food retailers (including off licences), pharmacies, homeware stores, petrol stations, car repair garages, banks and health service providers.
Any business which offers goods for sale and is not specified in Part 3, Schedule 2 of the Regulations must cease to carry on business. They will be permitted to continue marketing online and can make deliveries and/or provide services in response to orders received through a website (or other online communication), telephone or by post provided they close premises not required for the delivery limit admittance to only essential staff. These restrictions do not apply to food and beverage businesses which are covered by Part 1 Schedule 2 of the Regulations.
Unfortunately, the Regulations do not provide guidance on how businesses facing restrictions are expected to manage existing contractual commitments. Furthermore, the Regulations do not cover a wide variety of service industries, which by their nature are incapable of being done at home, such as the construction industry.
How can Tozers help?
For help and advice on how the Coronavirus pandemic will affect your business operations and existing contractual commitments please contact a member of our Litigation and Employment team or visit their service hub.