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Advice for Members

Last Updated: 26 May 2020

On 11 May, the Government released new guidance for people in England relating to Coronavirus. You can find full information here.

Please visit our pages on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for further information about the guidance that applies there.

The Government still says that you should stay at home unless necessary to go out for specific reasons. These include:
  • for work, where you cannot work from home
  • going to shops that are permitted to be open – to get things like food and medicine, and to collect goods ordered online or on the phone
  • to exercise or spend time outdoors for recreation
  • any medical need, to donate blood, avoid injury or illness, escape risk of harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
The Government says that in England "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."

They have also stated on the 25 May that the phased reopening of non-food shops will begin on 1 June, when outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to open. All other non-essential retail shops and branches are expected to be able to reopen from 15 June, depending on the spread of the virus and providing they are COVID-19 secure. The hospitality industry is expected to remain closed until at least 4 July.

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.

We are concerned that the change in message from "Stay at Home" to "Be Alert" could lead to confusion and a more relaxed approach to social distancing in general.

To be clear, the importance of social distancing in shops that are open has not changed. We expect employers to carry on implementing social distancing measures, and to support our members when they are enforcing them with customers.

We will be raising this with employers and also putting out a clear message to the public, that they should keep following social distancing when shopping. As always, if you are an Usdaw member and have any concerns about your safety at work, please contact your workplace rep or local official.

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.

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