On Wednesday 2 December England will emerge from lockdown and enter a new tier system, which has now been outlined by government.
The new system is based on a regionally-differentiated approach which will result in different restrictions applying in different parts of the country. It is noticeable that the new tier system is more restrictive than the one that was in place prior to the second lockdown.
From a business point of view, there are a number of guidelines that apply to every level of the new tier system and must be adhered to regardless of which tier your area is placed in. Most notably:
- Employees must work from home where they are able to do so, which means homeworking is here for the foreseeable. It is anticipated that this advice will remain in place until the furlough scheme ends on 31 March 2021.
- If it is necessary for your work, you can travel to other parts of the UK and may stay overnight.
- For international travel, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice still stands, along with the list of travel corridors.
- In all tiers house moves and property transactions can continue to take place.
- Non-essential retail, as well as essential, can open, along with gyms, leisure centres and golf courses.
- I’m sure we’ll all be grateful that hairdressers, barbers, beauty salons and spas have also been given the green light to open in all tiers.
So, what is the fine print?
Tier 1: medium alert
- Public attendance at spectator sports, business and performance events can resume inside and outside, provided social contact rules are observed and the venue is at 50% capacity or 4,000 people outdoors and 1,000 indoors, whichever is lower.
- Hospitality venues serving alcohol are restricted to table service only and must close between 11pm and 5am with last orders at 10pm.
- 11pm closure also applies to leisure venues such as bowling alleys, casinos, cinemas, theatres and theme parks.
- Organised indoor sport and exercise classes can take place providing the rule of 6 is followed.
Tier 2: high alert
The difference in tier 2 is essentially:
- Pubs and bars must close unless operating as restaurants when alcohol can only be served with meals.
- Sporting event attendance numbers are reduced to a maximum of 2,000 outdoors or 50% capacity, whichever is lower. Indoors remains at 1,000.
- Large business events and performances should not take place at all.
- Organised indoor sport and exercise classes can only take place where mixing with people outside your household or support bubble can be avoided.
Tier 3: Very high alert
- Bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants must all close and are only able to provide takeaway, drive-through or delivery services.
- All indoor entertainment and tourist venues must close.
- Leisure and sports facilities can remain open but with no group classes. Although outdoor sports and classes can go ahead.
- No public attendance at indoor or outdoor spectator sports.
- Large business events and performances should not take place.
Businesses have had to be tremendously adaptable during 2020 and they will need to continue to be so under the new tier system until at least March 2021.
The furlough scheme is set to continue until 31 March 2021, which is relieving the financial pressures on some businesses, but even with this many firms have had to quite radically change the way they work. This has created, not only practical challenges, but also HR ones, particularly in relation to homeworking, redundancy, settlement agreements and furlough.
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More information about the new tier system can be found on the government’s website.