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Advice for Members in Northern Ireland

Last Updated: 12 January

Northern Ireland began a six-week lockdown on Saturday 26 December. The current regulations are in place until 6 February, and will be reviewed on 21 January.

When You Can Leave Home
No-one may leave their home without a reasonable excuse. Permitted reasons to leave your home include to provide care, for outdoor exercise, and to go to work, but only if that work cannot reasonably be done from home. Further reasons include attending a medical appointment, shopping in businesses permitted to open, and visiting your bubble.

Businesses Required To Close
Only essential retail is permitted to remain open, and click and collect facilities for non-essential retail are not allowed.

Essential retail businesses include, but are not limited to:
  • food retailers, supermarkets, convenience stores, off licences and newsagents
  • pharmacies and chemists
  • fuel suppliers
  • building supplies and hardware stores (equipment for building maintenance and repairs - such as keys, locks, nuts, screws, washers, hinges, latches, handles, wire, chains, belts, plumbing supplies, electrical supplies, tools, and machine parts)
  • bicycle shops
  • agricultural supplies shops and livestock markets
  • motor vehicle repair shops
  • banks, building societies and credit unions
  • post offices • funeral directors
  • laundrettes and dry cleaners
  • dental services, opticians, audiology services, chiropody, chiropractors, osteopaths and other medical or health services
  • veterinary surgeons, dog groomers and pet shops
  • telecommunications and IT repair and maintenance
For full details of the latest guidelines, please visit the NI Direct website here.

Childcare settings are allowed to remain open and both informal childcare arrangements and paid childminder services can continue.

Schools – Children of Key Workers
Schools have been closed across Northern Ireland. Pre-school education settings as well as primary schools and post primary schools are required to provide remote learning to pupils until the half-term break in mid-February. Special schools will remain open as usual.

Vulnerable children and children of key workers will have access to schools for supervised learning. Only one parent/guardian is required to be a key worker.

In Northern Ireland, retail and distribution workers have key worker status.

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
Since 26 December 2020, ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ (CEV) people who are working and are unable to do so from home are advised not to attend the workplace.

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, subject to qualification, furlough pay will be available for those who need it, for instance for those whose stores are closed or those who are clinically vulnerable, 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.

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 current 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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