workingmums.co.uk has put together some of working parents’ main concerns regarding the gradual lifting of lockdown.
The Government has issued a lot of guidance this week for England. Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have maintained a tighter lockdown. workingmums.co.uk has distilled it into a Q & A of some of the many questions we are being asked.
Q: Do I have to go back to work if I can’t work from home, but am worried about my safety?
A: The Government advises that employers and staff discuss and agree working arrangements, that employers make all efforts to enable people to work from home if they can and if they can’t that they take “clear, practical steps to help protect workers and create safe places to work, such as shift working or staggering processes”. To identify the precautions needed to manage risk, employers should discuss the workplace risk assessment with employees to identify the practical ways of managing those risks. If employees are still worried that the employer is not taking sufficient safety measures, for instance, on social distancing they can report this to their local authority or the Health and Safety Executive. The Health and Safety Executive says companies that cannot protect their employees from coronavirus should stay shut.
HR experts say return to the workplace should be based on whether is it essential, whether it is safe and whether it has been mutually agreed with the workforce and should not be rushed.
Q: Can I be fired if I can’t work from home and don’t go to work?
A: The Government says: “We urge employers to take socially responsible decisions and listen to the concerns of their staff. Employers and employees should come to a pragmatic agreement about their working arrangements.” Employees can contact ACAS about their rights in these situations.
Q: Can I be fired if I don’t have childcare?
If there is no childcare available you can ask to be furloughed, but your employer has to agree it. The Government guidance says: “If you are unable to work, including from home, due to caring responsibilities arising from coronavirus (COVID-19), such as caring for children who are at home as a result of school and childcare facilities closing, or caring for a vulnerable individual in your household, then you should speak to your employer about whether they plan to place staff on furlough.”
See also the answer to the previous question.
Q: Which organisations cannot go back to work?
A: Those employers which must remain closed are non-essential retail, restaurants, pubs, bars, gyms and leisure centres.
Q: What if I can’t avoid public transport?
A: The Government says people should continue to avoid public transport “wherever possible” and maintain social distancing, for instance, by staggering journeys or choosing less busy routes. It is also advising that people should aim to wear a face-covering – not a mask – in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others who they do not normally meet. Face coverings are not compulsory, however.
Q: Should I go back to work if I am shielding due to underlying health issues?
A: The Government states that those in the clinically extremely vulnerable cohort will continue to be advised to shield themselves at home and to avoid face to face contact “for some time yet”.
Q: When will schools reopen and for whom?
The Government envisages that primary schools can start to reopen from the week of 1st June, beginning with reception and years one and six. It says it aims to have all primary school classes back a month before the summer holidays. This will be subject to schools being able to implement children’s safe return. The Government has issued guidance around risk management, including staggering drop-off and pick-up times and reducing class number sizes to a maximum of 15 children. Most secondary school students will not go back before September, but the Government wants schools to give years 10 and 12 some face to face contact before the holidays.
Q: What about nurseries and childminders/nannies?
Childminders and nannies are jobs which cannot be done from home so the Government says these can be done subject to being able to meet safety issues, such as frequent washing of hands and social distancing on travel to work.
Nurseries and childminders can resume taking children who are not key workers’ or vulnerable children from the week of 1st June provided safety has been taken into account, for instance, they have considered how to keep small groups of children together throughout the day and to avoid larger groups of children mixing.
Q: What if my child has asthma or another underlying health issue?
A: Children and young people who have been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable due to pre-existing medical conditions have been advised to shield. We do not expect these children to be attending school or college, and they should continue to be supported at home as much as possible. Clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable) people are those considered to be at a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. The Government says parents should follow medical advice if their child is in this category.
Q: When can I see family members who don’t live with me?
A: From Wednesday you can see a family member on a one to one basis in an outdoor area, such as a park, but you must keep two metres apart. The Government is looking at whether, when and how it can safely change the regulations to allow people to expand their household group to include one other household in the same exclusive group.
Q: When will cinemas, bars, cafes and hairdressers reopen?
A: The Government says these are expected to start reopening from 4th July.
*These are just some of the main questions and what the guidance says. workingmums.co.uk and Peninsula UK will be holding a COVID-19 employment rights session on Thursday 14th May at 12-1pm on Facebook Live.