With effect from midnight on Friday 16 October 2020 many parts of the UK including London were designated as Tier 2 high risk areas (the Restricted Area). This clearly has an impact on employers within the Restricted Area, but also affects those based outside the Restricted Area.
There are implications for those travelling from the Restricted Area for work and business meetings and for employees travelling to the Restricted Area for work. Employers will need to think about the way their employees interact with one another and the way they deal with clients or customers where any such individuals live in the Restricted Area or where meetings happen in the Restricted Area. As the rules are unlikely to be read in detail by every employee, employers would be well advised to provide some clear guidance to employees about what their obligations are. Failure to comply, without reasonable excuse, is a criminal offence so should be taken seriously.
What are the new rules?
The new rules apply not just to activities that occur in the Restricted Area but to people who live in the Restricted Area when they are outside the Restricted Area. So, people are prohibited from gathering indoors in the Restricted Area with anyone except members of their household or linked household. In addition, people living in the Restricted Area are prohibited from gathering indoors with anyone except their household or linked household when outside the Restricted Area. For outdoor gatherings, the rule of 6 still applies.
Is there an exemption for work?
Yes, in the work context gatherings that are reasonably necessary for work purposes are exempt from the prohibition against indoor gatherings.
Can employees travel to work from the Restricted Area?
Yes, employees who live in the Restricted Area can continue to come into work if they cannot work from home ‘effectively’. However, employers and employees should now consider carefully whether this is strictly necessary, especially as the government guidance is that those in Restricted Areas should not travel on public transport, where possible.
Can customers and clients living in the Restricted Area meet at an office outside that area?
Yes, customers, clients and others from the Restricted Area may continue to attend work premises for meetings in line with current procedures. However, employers should consider whether those meetings are reasonably necessary for work. The exception will only apply if this is the case. Going for lunch after a work meeting with someone living in the Restricted Area risks being non-compliant.
Can employees meet customers and clients in the Restricted Area?
Yes, employees can continue to meet customers and clients in the Restricted Area where it is reasonably necessary for work. However, employers should consider carefully the need for any contact outside an obvious work meeting. Lunch with a customer or client may not fall within the exemption so is best avoided.
Can employees meet colleagues in the office if one of them lives in the Restricted Area?
Yes, this would generally be for work purposes so should be fine. However, the usual rules on social distancing in the workplace should be followed.
Can employees go to lunch or to the pub after work with colleagues if one of them lives in the Restricted Area?
No, generally not. It is a criminal offence to meet a colleague socially in a pub or restaurant outside the Restricted Area if you live in the Restricted Area. Therefore, employees may meet in the office for legitimate work purposes, but may be unable to have a social lunch together.
Do we need to amend our risk assessment?
It may be a good idea to review your risk assessment in light of the new rules. In particular, the new guidance about avoiding public transport in Restricted Areas should be factored in.
Can employees still use childcare if their nanny or childminder lives in the Restricted Area?
This question is inevitably going to come up from employees if they are relying on childcare from someone living in the Restricted Area. There is a specific exception to the rules on indoor gathering where reasonably necessary for the purposes of childcare provided by a person registered under the Childcare Act 2006 and informal childcare provided by a member of a household to a member of their linked childcare household. Various rules apply to what constitutes a linked childcare household.
What are the penalties for non-compliance?
Contravening one of the Tier 2 restrictions without reasonable excuse is punishable on summary conviction by a fine. Fixed penalty notices can be issued by the police starting at £100 for the first offence, rising for any repetitions to £6,400 for the sixth or any subsequent offence.