The Government has said that businesses will begin to reopen in three steps. However, the Government is also clear that this timetable may change depending on how successful each step has been and whether the virus is under control. We need to follow the guidelines about social distancing, among others, to ensure we avoid a second surge in cases and a consequential delay in this plan.
Step 1: 13 May 2020
From Wednesday people who cannot work from home are encouraged to go to work if they can. This includes restaurant staff working in kitchens making food for delivery and takeaway.
While staff are encouraged to go to work, they are advised to avoid public transport and, if they do need to use public transport, to avoid peak hours. The Government has said businesses may wish to adjust opening hours to enable staff to avoid travelling on public transport at peak times.
While staff are encouraged to return to work if they cannot work from home, vulnerable people, such as older people or those with medical conditions who previously received a letter from the Government saying that they are deemed ‘extremely vulnerable’, should continue to avoid leaving their home, so you should not ask staff who are deemed vulnerable to come back to work at the moment.
Step 2: Circa 1 June 2020
The second step is planned to begin around June 1st. During this time the Government will allow some non-essential retail to reopen. However, this does not include the restaurant sector reopening for dine-in customers.
Step 3: Earliest 4 July 2020
Some restaurants should be able to re-open for dine-in customers as part of this step. This step will begin no earlier than July 4th. The Government will publish more information on this step closer to the time but has suggested that they will run pilot projects and stagger the reopening of these businesses.
Updated Government Guidance
As part of this new plan, the Government has published new, detailed guidance on how restaurants should operate to serve takeaway and deliveries. You should make sure you read this guide and take any steps appropriate for your restaurant.
The most important points to be aware of in the guide are:
- All restaurants have to conduct a new Risk Assessment about how you will manage the risk of spreading COVID-19. For restaurants with more than five staff, this risk assessment must be written down. Tools to help you in creating this risk assessment are available here.
- All restaurants are required to do everything they can to allow staff and others to keep at least 2 metres apart “where possible”. However, the guidance recognises this might not always be possible in restaurant kitchens and suggests other actions you should think about taking where possible to reduce the risk if people do have to be closer than 2 metres apart. Restaurant staff should increase regular hand washing and surface cleaning if not already doing so.
- The guidance also sets out other steps you should take to reduce COVID-19 risks when selling food, including for takeaway and delivery customers. You should consider how each part of the guidance applies to your business.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has extended the Government’s furlough scheme until the end of October.
Announcing the decision in the house of commons today (12 May) Sunak revealed that “no changes whatsoever” will be made to the current scheme until the end of July. However he noted that from August to October the scheme will continue, for all sectors and regions of the UK, but with greater flexibility to support the transition back to work.
Employers currently using the scheme will be able to bring furloughed employees back part-time.
“There will be no reduction in the level of support for those on the scheme,” said the chancellor. Instead he said he will ask employers to begin sharing the cost of paying people’s salaries with the government.
He added that further information on the changes will come at the end of the month.
This will bring relief to many who are concerned, and it matches the guidance of STEP 1 above where restaurant workers are encouraged to return for takeaway support if they are not in the vulnerable category. Having the option of part-time working alongside part-time furlough will be attractive to many who want to get back to work but also want to make sure they cover their bills.