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Coronavirus – Updated Advice for Members

Date: 24 March 2020 On Monday 23 March, the Government announced a nationwide lockdown.
As a result, all non-essential shops must close and gatherings in public of more than two people will be banned. You should only leave the house for one of four reasons:
  • Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible.
  • One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household.
  • Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

The following retail workplaces have been defined as essential and may stay open:

Supermarkets and other food shops, health shops, pharmacies including non-dispensing pharmacies, petrol stations, bicycle shops, home and hardware shops, laundrettes and dry cleaners, garages, car rentals, pet shops, corner shops, newsagents, post offices, and banks. Market stalls which offer essential retail, such as grocery and food.

If you are still going into work, it is a worrying time, especially in a public facing role. We expect employers to do everything they can to protect you. This includes, but is not limited to, ensuring a clean workplace, providing access to handwashing facilities, encouraging social distancing and increasing security measures where this is needed to keep you safe.

If you are pregnant, aged over 70 or have an underlying health condition you should check your company policy and ask your union rep for further advice.

If you are working in a retail workplace that is not included in the essential list, you will be required either to work from home or, if this is not possible, not to work. Depending on your employer, you may also be asked to move from a non-essential part of the business to an essential one.

If you are told not to go to work because your workplace is closed, you may qualify as a ‘furloughed worker’ under the Government’s Job Retention Scheme.

Your employer should seek your agreement before designating you as a furloughed worker and you should not agree to this without full details of what it means for you. Speak to your union rep or official for further advice on this. This scheme is intended to ensure you receive a minimum of 80% of their wages during a period where you are unable to work as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak.

The scheme is unlikely to be operational before the end of April and Usdaw has written to the Government asking them to confirm that wages will be based on average earnings.

We are calling on all employers to make up the difference between the 80% guaranteed by the Government and normal earnings.

We are aware that some employers have been attempting to stop paying their staff until the Government scheme pays out. Your employer still has a contractual duty to pay you for your contractual hours and any attempt not to do so should be reported to the Union.

We are asking the Government to make employers’ responsibilities clear on this matter.

The Government has not yet issued advice for workplaces which are not open to the public. We will keep you updated as this develops. However, we would expect any employer to make their staff’s welfare a priority at this time. Where any workplace is still operational, social distancing and hygiene measures should be implemented to support staff and employers should adapt their procedures to keep you safe.

If you work in a non-retail workplace which closes, the guidance above on the Job Retention Scheme for furloughed workers would apply.

We appreciate that this is an extremely difficult and worrying time for all of our members and will continue provide you with advice and support. If you need help, please speak to your union rep or local official.

We will be issuing updates regularly on social media – if you haven’t yet followed us on Facebook or Twitter please do so now to keep up to date.

Thank you once again, for all that you are doing in these very difficult circumstances.

View our Frequently Asked Questions and Social Distancing in the Workplace guide.

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