Coronavirus: Employment Update 3

Government “lockdown” order... But what are non-essential shops? And who can travel to work and who can’t?

Last night, the Prime Minister announced that: 

"Travelling to and from work [is permitted], but only where it is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home". 


To ensure compliance with the Government’s instruction to stay at home, we will immediately close all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises, including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship….”.

This immediately raised questions of:

  • What is considered to be absolutely necessary? The work or the travel to get there?
  • What are “non-essential shops”?
  • What about trades? For example should construction work continue?
  • What are “essential services”?

Shortly after, the Government published a document entitled “Full guidance on staying at home and away from others (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others) . That guidance said people are permitted to travel "to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home". It also refers to more detailed information and “a full list of those businesses and other venues that must close” 


Despite the guidance, the Government still faced calls for clarify and further guidance, for example, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the measures were "the right response" but called for more guidance on workplace closures.

The lack of clarity reportedly initially resulted in Sports Direct informing employees that it would be staying open (in accordance with the government’s current social distancing guidance) as it considered itself to be “uniquely well placed to help keep the UK as fit and healthy as possible during this crisis”. However (shortly after Michael Gove’s interview with the BBC of this morning (see below)), due to a number of public criticisms, Sports Direct has now done a U-turn on this position and has made a statement confirming that they will not be opening without the “go-ahead” by the Government.

UK Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has been speaking this morning on Good Morning Britain and BBC Breakfast. He has provided some further details on the UK “lockdown” measures:


Mr Gove’s comments provide useful clarity for employers and self-employed individuals in various industries, in certain respects.  But, calls for clarity in what help will be available for self-employed workers and what who should and shouldn’t be working (including from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn) remain strong.

Whilst people digest the announcement and guidance and try to work out what it actually means, we can offer assistance to employers/businesses/individuals with:

  • Navigating the current Government guidance and keeping up to date with further guidance applicable to their businesses;
  • Determining if a business is “non-essential” and should now shut;
  • Making interim (subject to further guidance) decisions about the whether or not works should be required to come to work; and
  • Implementing measures to comply with social distancing guidelines if remaining open.

We are continuing business as usual and would be happy to speak to businesses and individuals about any business/employment coronavirus issues they may have.

If you have any questions or want to discuss the above in more detail, please contact Caroline Adams on: caroline@jamiesonalexander.co.uk; or by telephone 0330 2000 140.


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