Other than stressing that key workers must continue to work during the Coronavirus pandemic and advising that ‘if you can work at home, you should’, the Government’s advice has been a little open to interpretation.
For instance, up until yesterday morning Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley was telling his employees to continue working, seemingly believing that sportswear is a necessity and that his staff are key workers. He has since reviewed this and closed all stores.
But he’s not on his own, many employers are either in some doubt as to whether their business is in a key area or are so determined to continue operating that they’re viewing the rules as flexible.
Key workers are defined as those people whose jobs are vital to public health and safety during the lockdown. The list includes:
- All NHS staff, including administrative staff and cleaners, plus those producing and distributing medicines and protective equipment.
- Education and childcare workers.
- Anyone involved in the production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery of food and other necessary goods.
- Key public services.
- Local and national government workers ‘essential to the effective delivery’ of the Covid-19 response or delivering essential public services.
- Utility workers
- Public safety and national security personnel, for example, the police and support staff, fire and rescue staff, border security, prisons and probation.
- Transport workers necessary for keeping air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport operating.
Despite coming up with the above definition of key workers, queries have flooded in. What about builders, garages, plumbers, car rental firms?
In a TV interview today, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove offered some clarity.
Workers in construction and manufacturing in specific circumstances can stay in work as they cannot work from home.
Other companies could also be considered key workers such as garages selling petrol or carrying out essential repairs. They have been advised to stay open but not car showrooms. Car rental firms could stay open if they are providing vehicles to key workers and if social distancing is observed.
Mr Gove went on to say that plumbers can still work on essential emergency cases as well as electricians and gas engineers, so from this I assume cosmetic or non-emergency bookings shouldn’t take place.
It is doubtless a difficult decision for a business to close its doors for an indefinite period but there is government help available to ensure businesses can get up-and-running again once things get back to normal.
In such testing times, it is clearly everyone’s duty to do the right thing and to play their part in bringing the current public health emergency under control.