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Advice for Members in Northern Ireland

Last Updated:  23 November 2020

The Government in Northern Ireland have announced that from 12.01am on Friday 27 November there will be a two-week circuit breaker lockdown across Northern Ireland.

A circuit breaker lockdown is similar to the strict lockdown at the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak – but it will be for just a limited two-week period, in an attempt to suppress the spread of the virus, whilst doing less damage to the economy than a longer-lasting period of lockdown.

Under the circuit breaker lockdown rules:
  • All non-essential retail must close.
  • You should stay at home as much as possible and only leave home for essential purposes such as necessary work, education, healthcare needs, to care for others, or outdoor exercise.
  • No household gatherings, other than those involving support bubbles.
  • Restaurants, cafes pubs, and bars can only offer takeaway, drive-through or delivery (All takeaway businesses must close by 23:00).
  • Hospitality and leisure must close (including gyms).
  • Hairdressers, barbers and beauty salons must close.
  • Off-licences and supermarkets must not sell alcohol after 20:00.
  • It is still compulsory to wear a face covering in shops (previous exemptions apply).
  • Schools and nurseries can remain open (further education and higher education should deliver distance learning wherever possible). 

Essential retail such as supermarkets, convenience stores, off licences, pharmacies (including non-dispensing pharmacies) and chemists, newsagents, homeware stores and garden centres may remain open; but must follow the usual strict Covid-safe guidelines.

Usdaw is concerned about the increase in Coronavirus cases in Northern Ireland and found the scenes of crowded shops in recent days very worrying. We will continue to work with employers and Government to protect our members.

In companies where Usdaw is recognised, the Union is currently in discussions with employers as to how these measures will affect our members and you will be updated through the normal channels.

For full details of the latest guidelines, please visit the NI Direct website here.

The core advice for people in Northern Ireland remains the same. You should:
  • limiting contact with others
  • regular hand washing
  • wearing of face coverings
  • good social distancing
  • if you display any Coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, self-isolate straight away and book a test

Job Retention Scheme (Furlough)

The Job Retention Scheme has been extended to March 2021.

If you are unable to work due to the latest restrictions you may still be ‘furloughed’ under the Job Retention Scheme for some or all of your normal hours. If you are on furlough status, your pay for any unworked hours may be reduced to 80% of your average earnings.

To be eligible for the scheme, you must have been employed and paid through PAYE before 30 October 2020.

Companies can furlough workers on a part-time basis and access the scheme to cover any unworked hours. The scheme will carry on paying 80% of workers’ wages, with the Government paying the full 80% of wages, and employers paying pension and national insurance contributions. Employers can choose to top-up this payment.

The contributions employers will need to make to the scheme will be reviewed in January, but workers will always receive a minimum of 80% of their pay.

You must not do any work for your employer for any hours or periods where you are furloughed, Speak to your Union rep or official if you need any further advice on this.

Usdaw can help

If you are a member of Usdaw and you require any support because you are being placed on furlough, or if you are returning to work following a period of furlough, or if you have any concerns arising out of the latest lockdown restrictions please contact Usdaw as soon as possible.

If you are not a member of Usdaw, please consider joining us today!

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