18 May 2020
Welsh Government guidance has not changed. The advice continues to be:
- Stay at home:
- only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if is not reasonably practicable to work from home)
- stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people
- wash your hands as soon as you get home
A number of measures reduce the spread of infection has been introduced, including:
- requiring people to stay at home except for very limited purposes
- closing certain businesses and venues
- stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public, except when they are members of the same household or for certain other specific exceptions
You can travel to and from work, but only where it is not reasonable practicable to work from home.
Many businesses and premises must remain closed. Exceptions include:
- Supermarkets and other food shops,
- Pharmacies and chemists, including non-dispensing chemists
- Storage and distribution facilities
- Food delivery and take away
Persons responsible for work must have regard to the guidance on physical distancing, which means all reasonable measures should be taken to ensure that a distance of 2m is maintained between person on the premises and waiting to enter the premises.
Welsh government guidance does not provide exhaustive advice of what should be done in every eventuality, but outlines considerations that businesses and organisations should reflect in determining measures. Therefore, it will be for a business to justify the reasonable measures that they have adopted and to demonstrate how they have considered that these are proportionate and minimise the risks faced by workers who have to continue to attend work in their workplace.
Businesses need to take a number of considerations into account, including:
- Cost – is the cost of the measure proportionate to the number of people whose risk is reduced by the measure?
- The nature of work – are the measures practical, or would they so undermine the delivery of the service or undertaking of the business that they would be counterproductive?
- Can measures be put in place without compromising the health and safety of others?
Measures should command staff’s confidence that due consideration has been given to the level of risk they face.
Examples of reasonable measures include:
- Reducing the number of people working on the premises at any one time– increasing the space between people by reducing the total number of people in attendance.
- Increasing space between staff – for example on a production line leaving 2 m gaps between people and indicating spacing with markings.
- Consider appropriate provision of rest space – is there a congregation of workers at a certain time? Could additional space be provided, or breaks staggered.
- Altering tasks undertaken – making adjustments to the way that work is done, to reduce contact.
- Stagger shifts to minimise people on site and to reduce congestion at the point of shift changes.
- Carrying a passenger in the back seat rather than the front seat of a taxi would be a reasonable measure
The key purpose of the regulations is to minimise the risk of transmission of coronavirus. Where contact or closer working is required, it is important that other measures are considered, for example:
- minimising the level of interaction
- physical barriers
- improved hygiene and reminders about the importance of hygiene
- washing hands well for 20 seconds with soap after close contact
- ensuring those with symptoms are not present on the premises
Most Usdaw members are already at work and have working been throughout this outbreak, keeping the food and pharmaceutical supply chain moving, in very difficult circumstances.
If you work in non-food retail, or any other type of workplace that is currently closed, your employer should be making preparations to keep you safe. Before any workplace reopens, the employer should do a full risk assessment and put in place proper social distancing and hygiene standards. When they do attempt to reopen, we will be here to support members with any health, transport, or childcare concerns you may have. Please contact your workplace rep or local official if you need advice.
You may currently be ‘furloughed’ under the Job Retention Scheme if your workplace is closed or you are unable to work. If you are put on furlough status, your pay may be reduced to 80% of your average earnings. Your employer can only claim if you were on their PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020, and they had notified HMRC of your employment by that date.
Following pressure from trade unions, the Government has extended the Job Retention Scheme from its previous deadline of June. It will now be available in its current form until the end of July. It will then continue to run from August until the end of October, with changes to make it more flexible. This will mean that companies will be able to bring workers back on a part-time basis and access the scheme to cover any unworked hours. The scheme will carry on paying 80% of workers’ wages, but the Government has said that they will be requiring employers to make a contribution to that 80% payment. We are waiting for details of when and how this will happen.
We continue to call on all employers to make up the difference between the 80% guaranteed by the Government and normal earnings.
It is your employer’s decision whether to access the scheme or not, but they should seek your agreement if your pay will be reduced as a result. 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.
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.