As infection rates soar in some parts of England, the Prime Minister has announced a new three-tier system with the Liverpool region the first to go into tier 3.
The Prime Minister has set out a three-tier system for England, with the Liverpool region due to come under the strictest tier from Wednesday, pending a vote in Parliament.
The first medium level, which will cover most of the country, includes the rule of six and the 10pm curfew. The next level up – tier two – prevents all indoor mixing between households or support bubbles. In tier three all social mixing indoors and in private gardens is prohibited and pubs and bars will be closed. Most areas already under local restrictions will move into tier two. Non-essential retail, schools and universities will remain open in all levels. A postcode checker on gov.uk will show which alert level applies in each area and the NHS COVID-19 app will also direct people to this information.
Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula, outlines below the main issues for employers:
This latest update from the Prime Minister certainly seems to simplify localised lockdown restrictions, which have previously received criticism for being too complicated. Now, with this new tiered system in place, businesses in areas facing a Tier 3 situation will presumably have more of an idea of what this will mean beforehand, even though full confirmation for specific Tier 3 closures outside of pubs and bars will vary from place to place. In this manner, businesses can potentially aim to be better prepared and avoid breaching the law unintentionally.
Affected businesses in areas facing Tier 3 restrictions will now need to consider what measures are going to be necessary in response to their business closing, especially as this could be the situation for a prolonged period. They should remember that the furlough scheme can still be utilised until the end of the month, provided they are eligible to do so, albeit with the government providing fewer funds than at the start of the scheme. Going into November, they may then wish to consider using the recently announced extended Job Support Scheme, through which the government will provide two-thirds of employee wages for eligible businesses if they are forced to shut. The scheme is also to be available, in a different capacity, for businesses that do not need to shut and can provide their employees at least one-third of their normal working hours.
Businesses based in Tier 2 and Tier 1 restricted areas may breathe a sigh of relief at the news that they have avoided closure for now. Still, they must not become too complacent and continue to keep up to date with all developments. As we’ve seen since the start of the pandemic, the situation can change rapidly and they may soon find themselves facing the real prospect of Tier 3 closures if infection rates continue to increase in their area. It is also important to remember that, as always, the government is prepared to go further still if they do not believe these new measures are effective.