3-Tier Lockdown Guide and Financial Support For Businesses
Amid mounting alarm over COVID infection rates, a new three-tier Covid alert system came into force from 14 October 2020. Under the new Covid alert system, areas of the country will be categorised as Tier 1 - Medium, Tier 2 - High or Tier 3 - Very High dependant on the rates of infection within those areas. Designed to simplify the range of different COVID-19 restrictions already in place, the new 3-tier system sets out the information for local authorities, residents and workers about what to do and how to manage the outbreak in their area.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own devolved governments and separate health systems. Pubs across central Scotland have closed for over two weeks and there is a ban on hosting other households indoors across the country. From 23 October, Wales will go into a national two-week 'firebreak' Covid lockdown under which schools, shops, pubs and hotels will close and citizens will be told to stay at home to protect the NHS. From Friday 16 October, Northern Ireland entered a period of intensified coronavirus restrictions, with pubs and restaurants closed for four weeks, with the exception of takeaways and deliveries, whilst the half-term holiday break for schools and colleges has been extended to a two-week break to run from October 19 to October 30.
Under the new three-tier lockdown restrictions in England, Liverpool and Lancashire have been placed under the harshest restrictions with Manchester expected to announce whether they will be going into Tier 3 restrictions.
To check whether the restrictions apply to your area the government offer a Postcode checker and NHS Covid-19 app.
Local COVID Alert Levels Explained
Tier 1 - Medium
The restrictions and regulations are reviewed every 28 days.The medium level will cover a significant part of England and includes the current national restrictions such as the "rule of six" and the 10pm curfew for pubs, bars and restaurants.
- Rule of Six
- Businesses and venues can continue to operate but pubs and restaurants must ensure customers only consume food and drink while seated, and close between 10pm and 5am.
- Takeaway food can continue to be sold after 10pm if ordered by phone or online.
- Advised to work from home if possible
- Trades people can continue to go into a household for work and are not counted as being part of a 6-person limit.
- Schools and universities remain open
- Weddings and funerals can still go ahead with attendees restricted to 15 and 30 respectively
Tier 2 - High Alert
The alert level is reviewed every 14 days and the rules and regulations are reviewed every 28 days. The “high” alert level will reflect many current local interventions, but there will now be consistency across the country.
- Rules from Tier 1 apply.
- Prevents all mixing between households or support bubbles indoors.
- Trades people can continue to go into a household for work
- The Rule of Six will apply in outdoor spaces, including private gardens.
- Pubs and restaurants are to close at 10pm
Tier 3 - Very High Alert
Areas should only be at this level for 28 days then a review should take place. The most severe on the system, the “very high” alert level applies where transmission rates are causing the greatest concern and where the NHS could soon be under unbearable pressure without further restrictions.
This includes incidence and test positivity, including amongst older and more at-risk age groups, as well as the growth rate, hospital admissions and other factors.
- The Rule of Six allowed in open public spaces like parks and beaches.
- People will be advised not to travel in and out of these areas.
- Ban on different households mixing, social mixing indoors and in private gardens.
- Trades people can continue to go into a household for work.
- Full lock-down with most non-essential businesses closed.
- Schools remain open.
- Workplaces remain open.
- Full lock-down with most non-essential businesses closed.
- Pubs and bars will be closed and can only remain open where they operate as if they were a restaurant, which means serving substantial meals, like a main lunchtime or evening meal. They may only serve alcohol as part of such a meal.
Exceptions to the Rules
Although the new guidelines will affect most people, there are some exceptions to the rules if you live in a high or very high-risk area, where you can meet with other people, outside of the above guidelines. If you're meeting with people who are in your support or childcare bubbles:
- For work or volunteering.
- To provide care or assistance to someone who is vunerable.
- To fulfil a legal obligation.
- For outdoor exercise or outdoor dance classes.
- To visit someone who is dying.
- As a birth partner.
- For a funeral or wedding (there are restrictions on numbers).
- To attend support groups.
- To protest.
What Financial Support is Available for Your Business
In cases of forced closures, between now and 31 October 2020 businesses can use the furlough scheme (subject to qualifying eligibility). From 1 November 2020, the furlough scheme is replaced by the new Job Support Scheme (JSS) and the Job Support Scheme Expansion. The JSS Expansion will cover businesses that are legally required to close their premises because of coronavirus restrictions set by one of the four governments in the UK. Under this scheme, the government will pay 67% of wages for all hours not worked, regardless of whether the job is a viable job or not. Neither the employer nor the employee needs to have previously used the furlough scheme (Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme).
The JSS Expansion does not apply to businesses who choose to close, nor does it apply to businesses required to close by local public health authorities as a result of specific workplace outbreaks.
When businesses are permitted to re-open, employers can claim under the JSS.
Written Agreements with Employees
To use both the JSS and JSS Expansion, employers must agree the new short-time working arrangements with their staff, make any changes to the employment contract by agreement, and notify the employee in writing. This agreement must be made available to HMRC on request. For those businesses who wish to use the JSS and JSS Expansion, HR:4UK can supply our clients with these Agreement Forms upon request. Please contact us today to receive your copies.
Join Our FREE HR Webinar 3pm This Friday 23 October
Our FREE webinar on Friday 23 October will support businesses "Using the New Job Support Schemes & Preparing for Local Lockdowns - With Live Q&As." To register your place click here. If you are unable to make it don't worry as you can always watch our video on demand via our YouTube channel here.
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Disclaimer: Please note this is not legal advice on your circumstances and HR:4UK are not qualified to give medical advice. Our advice is based on our understanding of the information currently available and may be subject to change as and when more guidance becomes available.