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Advice for Members

Last Updated: 8 January 2021

This page is related to current guidance in England. Please visit our pages on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for further information about the guidance that applies there.

On 4 January 2021, the Prime Minister announced a new National Lockdown for England. Similar announcements have been made by the devolved administrations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The full Government Guidance on the National Lockdown affecting England has now been published and is available at www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home.

The new restrictions mean that people should stay at home unless they have a reasonable excuse, and that schools have closed to most pupils with remote learning until at least February half term.

The new restrictions also mean that non-essential retail is closed in all parts of England.

When You Can Leave Home - Work

"You must not leave or be outside of your home except where you have a 'reasonable excuse'."

A reasonable excuse covers a range of essential activities such as shopping, exercise and visiting people in your support bubble.

It can also include going to work where it is not possible to work from home:

"A 'reasonable excuse' includes:
  • Work - you can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home, including but not limited to people who work within critical national infrastructure, construction or manufacturing that require in-person attendance."

Businesses Required To Close

The businesses and sectors required to close include:

  • Non-essential retail, such as clothing and homeware stores, vehicle showrooms (other than for rental), betting shops, tailors, tobacco and vape shops, electronic goods and mobile phone shops, auction houses (except for auctions of livestock or agricultural equipment) and market stalls selling non-essential goods. These venues can continue to be able to operate click-and-collect (where goods are pre-ordered and collected off the premises) and delivery services.
  • Hospitality venues such as cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars and social clubs; with the exception of providing food and non-alcoholic drinks for takeaway (until 11pm), click-and-collect and drive-through. All food and drink (including alcohol) can continue to be provided by delivery.
Businesses and venues which can remain open, following COVID-19 secure guidelines, include:
  • Essential retail such as food shops, supermarkets, pharmacies, garden centres, building merchants and suppliers of building products and off-licences.
  • Market stalls selling essential retail.
  • Storage and distribution facilities.
  • Petrol stations, automatic (but not manual) car washes, vehicle repair and MOT services, bicycle shops, and taxi and vehicle hire businesses.

A 'reasonable excuse' for leaving your home also includes "provide informal childcare for children under 14 as part of a childcare bubble (for example, to enable parents to work, and not to enable social contact between adults)".

Parents are allowed to form a childcare bubble with one other household for the purposes of informal childcare, where the child is under 14. This is mainly to enable parents to work, and must not be used to enable social contact between adults.

For more details: www.gov.uk/guidance/making-a-childcare-bubble-with-another-household

Schools – Children of Critical/Key Workers

Schools will continue to provide places for children of key workers. The Government Guidance now refers to “critical workers” but essentially the definition is very similar to “key workers” and includes workers who work in essential sectors including:

Food and other necessary goods. This includes those involved in food:
  • production
  • processing
  • distribution
  • sale and delivery

Funeral workers are also critical workers as the list includes "those responsible for the management of the deceased".

The full list of sectors where workers are defined as critical workers can be found at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision

Colleges, primary (reception onwards) and secondary schools will remain open for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. Wraparound care can also remain open for these children. Early Years settings (eg nurseries) can remain open.

If you are a key worker and need school provision, you should contact your child(ren)’s school as soon as possible.

If you are not a key worker or are unable to get a school place, but still need to work, you should speak to your manager about any support you need. We would expect employers to be as flexible as possible to support their staff. This could include swapping your shifts, reducing your hours or taking emergency leave if necessary.

Workers can be furloughed to deal with childcare issues relating to school closures. However, it is up to your employer whether they take up this option or not.

Clinically Extremely Vulnerable Workers

The Government’s guidance says "If you are clinically extremely vulnerable you should not attend work, school, college or university, and limit the time you spend outside the home. You should only go out for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential."

If you have received a letter to say that you are clinically extremely vulnerable, you should advise your manager and not attend work. If you have any queries about this, speak to your union rep or local official.


The Job Retention Scheme has been extended to April 2021. This means furlough pay will be available for those who need it, for instance for those whose stores are closed or those who are shielding, if their employer chooses to claim through the scheme.

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. You do not need to have been furloughed before.

The scheme will continue to run until April. 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.

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.

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