MEDIA WATCH – four things businesses learned today about getting staff back to work

Mon 11 May 2020
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News


Here the IOE&IT’s content team sifts through the morning news headlines to bring readers the latest government policies relevant to those running or working in businesses.

1. Travelling to work

The government have said “all workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open.”

Workplaces will be asked, where possible, to ensure employees can maintain a two-metre distance from each other, as per social distancing rules.

The Prime Minister last night urged employees to cycle, drive or walk to work where possible.

Following the PM’s speech last night, commuters in London have already restarted using the tube, with reports of packed trains in Metro this morning.

The government is expected to launch a £250m investment package for cycle lanes in the UK’s major cities, the Guardian report.

2. Safety at work

The government advised people to “wear a face covering” when in “enclosed spaces” where social distancing isn’t possible and when encountering people who they do not normally meet.

Examples given include public transport and shops.

Some businesses have raised concern about being seen to be bidding against the NHS for face masks in efforts to get employees back to work.

3. Furlough scheme extension

The government’s generous furlough scheme, whereby it pays 80% of the salaries of staff put on leave by their employers, is a victim of its own success, with around six million workers furloughed costing the state some £8bn.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was set to run until the end of June.

Now the government is mulling how it can wean firms off the scheme, with a mooted reduction of the subsidy to 60% of salaries, and a top up of part-time worker salaries, attached to the carrot of extending the scheme until September. 

The Daily Telegraph’s source for this story are business bosses who have been briefed by ministers.

Changes to the scheme may be announced by Chancellor Rushi Sunak tomorrow (Tuesday, 12 May).

4. Types of businesses expected to stay closed

For the time being, certain businesses and venues are required by law to stay closed to the public, the government’s official website states.

These include:

  • restaurants and cafes, other than for takeaway
  • pubs, cinemas, theatres and nightclubs
  • clothing and electronics stores; hair, beauty and nail salons; and outdoor and indoor markets (not selling food)
  • libraries, community centres, and youth centres
  • indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, gyms, arcades and soft play facilities
  • some communal places within parks, such as playgrounds and outdoor gyms
  • places of worship (except for funerals)
  • hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, campsites, caravan parks, and boarding houses for commercial/leisure use, excluding use by those who live in them permanently, those who are unable to return home and critical workers where they need to for work

However, food retailers and food markets, hardware stores, garden centres (from Wednesday 13 May) and certain other retailers can remain open.

Other businesses can remain open and their employees can travel to work, where they cannot work from home.

Also from Wednesday 13 May, the government will allow outdoor sports facilities - such as tennis and basketball courts, golf courses and bowling greens - to open, but only for use alone, with members of a person’s household, or with one other person from outside that household, while keeping two metres apart at all times.