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Three stage plan to get country back to work

3rd June 2020


Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out a three-stage plan to get England back to work whilst attempting to keep a lid on the coronavirus transmission rate. Linked with this is a likely emergency Budget in July.

The plan is conditional on the virus being kept under control. The devolved nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are adopting slightly different strategies.

The government has published details about how the lockdown will be gradually lifted for both schools and industry.


A 60-page document outlining the changes is available for download from the gov website.

Most restrictions - such as social distancing - remain in place, but from Wednesday 13 May the three-stage approach began in England, following revised regulations.


Stage 1 - 13 May 2020

People should continue to work from home if they can, and only go to work if they must.

So those, for example, in the construction and manufacturing sectors should be "actively encouraged to go to work," according to the Prime Minister. However, if they do so, they should avoid public transport if at all possible, by using a car, walking or a bicycle.

Also allowed to open from 13 May are garden centres. And people who wish to move home, can now do so.

It is not clear how parents will return to work if schools and nurseries remain closed.

The government has issued guidance to employers on how to make workplaces "COVID-secure".

(Of particular note is the Employment Rights Act 1996, section 44 which legally allows employees to refuse to work in a place that is, in their opinion, unsafe. This could lead to difficulties where employees feel that their workplaces are not COVID-secure.)

The Health & Safety Executive has published some useful guidance. Individuals can also approach ACAS for impartial advice.

Page 25 of the government's document states about work:

"For the foreseeable future, workers should continue to work from home rather than their normal physical workplace, wherever possible. This will help minimise the number of social contacts across the country and therefore keep transmissions as low as possible. All those who work are contributing taxes that help pay for the healthcare provision on which the UK relies. People who are able to work at home make it possible for people who have to attend workplaces in person to do so while minimising the risk of overcrowding on transport and in public places.

All workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open. Sectors of the economy that are allowed to be open should be open, for example this includes food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific research in laboratories. The only exceptions to this are those workplaces such as hospitality and nonessential retail which during this first step the Government is requiring to remain closed.

As soon as practicable, workplaces should follow the new “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines, as set out in the previous chapter, which will be published this week. These will ensure the risk of infection is as low as possible, while allowing as many people as possible to resume their livelihoods.

It remains the case that anyone who has symptoms, however mild, or is in a household where someone has symptoms, should not leave their house to go to work. Those people should self-isolate, as should those in their households."

Stage 1 also allows people to take unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise, but only with members of the same household.

Fines will be increased from Wednesday from the current £60 to £100 for those who do not adhere to social distancing rules. Fines will increase for subsequent offences, up to a maximum of £3,600.


Stage 2 - 1 & 15 June 2020

Stage 2 sees the phased reopening of shops as long as they are COVID-19 secure. .On 25 May it was announced that:

  • Outdoor markets selling flowers, books, crafts, and fashion and car showrooms are able to reopen from 1 June, as long as they are able to meet the COVID-19 secure guidelines to protect shoppers and workers. As with garden centres, the risk of transmission of the virus is lower in these outdoor and more open spaces. Car showrooms often have significant outdoor space and it is generally easier to apply social distancing.

  • All other non-essential retail including shops selling clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books, and electronics, plus tailors, auction houses, photography studios, and indoor markets, will be expected to be able to reopen from 15 June if the Government’s five tests are met and they follow the COVID-19 secure guidelines, giving them three weeks to prepare.

Reopening High Streets Safely Fund

From 1 June 2020 to 31 March 2021, councils in England can be reimbursed additional expenditure they incur to prepare high streets for a safe post-COVID reopening.

The Reopening High Streets Safely Fund allows councils to put in place additional measures to establish a safe trading environment for businesses and customers.


NHS England says that dental practices can reopen from 8 June.

Schools from 1 June

Pupils can return to school in stages, beginning with reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

The government wants secondary pupils facing exams next year to get at least some time with their teachers before the holidays, although that appears to have been delayed.

Page 26 of the document says about schools:

"The rate of infection remains too high to allow the reopening of schools for all pupils yet. However, it is important that vulnerable children (including children in need, those with an Education, Health and Care plan and those assessed as otherwise vulnerable by educational providers or local authorities) and the children of critical workers are able to attend school, as is currently permitted. Approximately 2% of children are attending school in person, although all schools are working hard to deliver lessons remotely.

But there is a large societal benefit from vulnerable children, or the children of critical workers, attending school: local authorities and schools should therefore urge more children who would benefit from attending in person to do so.

The Government is also amending its guidance to clarify that paid childcare, for example nannies and childminders, can take place subject to being able to meet the public health principles at Annex A, because these are roles where working from home is not possible. This should enable more working parents to return to work."

The government has issued guidance for parents and carers about children returning to school.

The 1 June start date for schools was confirmed in a further government release on 24 May.

On 28 May it was further confirmed that from 1 June groups of up to six people can meet outside, provided strict social distancing rules are observed.

Face coverings on public transport from 15 June

The Transport Secretary has announced that from 15 June, face coverings will become mandatory on public transport. That doesn’t mean surgical masks, but the kind of face covering that can be made at home. There’ll be exceptions to the rule for very young children, disabled people and those with breathing difficulties.


Stage 3 - 4 July 2020 (possibly)

Stage 3 will coincide with flexible furloughing, allowing furloughed workers to return part time.

Subject to the right conditions and scientific advice; there will be the re-opening of some of the hospitality industry and other public places, provided they are safe and enforce social distancing. Hairdressers may also possibly open.

It appears that pubs will have to wait a little longer before they can re-open, possibly until late summer or early autumn.

The Prime Minister added: "And if we can’t do it by those dates, and if the alert level won’t allow it, we will simply wait and go on until we have got it right."

The government had originally promised that all pupils would be able to go back to school by 4 July, but has now scrapped that plan, as it felt schools weren't ready.


People travelling to the UK by air and other means are subject to 14-day quarantine measures from 8 June.

The government has published a list of those who are exempt from the measures..

The measures were reviewed on 29 June 2020 and passengers returning to or visiting England from certain destinations including Germany, France, Spain and Italy, will no longer need to self-isolate on arrival from 10 July 2020.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)

Read how the CJRS will be wound down to end in October. The scheme closed on 10 June to new entrants.

Furloughed workers who return to work part time from 1 July will have their wages paid for- at least in part - by the Treasury, as part of a gradual withdrawal of the CJRS. So the grant will drop from its current 80% of normal pay to 60% in stages.

More information about CJRS can be found in our detailed article.

Foe more guidance on getting businesses working again after the Coronavirus, check out our Business After-COVID Knowledge Hub.

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