Last Updated: 11 January 2021
Wales is currently in Level 4 and the Welsh Government has announced that restrictions will be strengthened in some key areas to prevent the new, highly-infectious strain of the virus spreading from person to person in those shops and workplaces which remain open.
The Government has also said that, unless there is a significant reduction in cases of coronavirus before 29 January – the date of the next three-week review of the regulations – school and college students will continue to learn online until the February half term.
Non-essential retail, hospitality venues, licensed premises and leisure facilities will remain closed. Click and collect can still operate.
The Welsh Government is also reviewing whether major supermarkets and retailers need to put additional measures in place to protect people in store and what else employers need to do to protect people in the workplace.
When You Can Leave Home
Amongst the limited reasonable excuses to leave your home are provisions for caring, outdoor exercise and to go to work, but only if that work cannot be done from home.
Non-essential goods in stores that can stay open
The Government’s guidance states that shops such as should close those parts or aisles of the shop selling products that a type of business which has been required to close would normally sell (eg clothes or toys). Shops need to make those arrangements in ways that allow people to move safely around the store so in some stores it won’t be possible to close whole aisles.
In addition to essential items, supermarkets can sell any item ordinarily sold in small stores such as convenience stores, corner shops and off licences. Goods that are in closed areas of the stores can be sold if they are needed in an emergency or on compassionate grounds. You should refer to your own company’s policy on this.
The Welsh Government has said “We appreciate that retail staff can unfairly bear the brunt of the frustration of their customers. For this reason the Welsh Government will also communicate to the public their responsibilities and remind them not to challenge shop workers and that poor behaviour is unacceptable. We also advise shop managers to use announcements and other messaging to remind shoppers of the rules.”
Click and collect services
Unlike in earlier lockdowns, at Level 4 all shops can offer click and collect or similar services, whether or not they are required to close their premises. All goods and services must be ordered in advance online, by telephone or mail order.
All reasonable measures must be put in place to ensure that a 2 metre distance is maintained in click and collect services. Shops should also ensure if possible that customers do not have to enter indoor sections of closed retail premises to collect goods.
Following a formal review of the current restrictions the First Minister announced that students will continue to learn remotely until at least 31 January. Vulnerable children and children of critical workers will have access to on-site provision along with learners undertaking essential exams and assessments, until then.
At that point, unless the rates of community transmission in Wales reduce significantly by 29 January, most students in schools and colleges will continue working remotely until the February half term.
All nurseries and childcare settings can remain open, though they should continue to take account of the Welsh Government’s guidance on safe operations.
Local authorities make the decision on who is a critical worker, but they must consider the list provided by the Welsh Government, which includes food retail, production and distribution workers. The full list can be found here.
Being included on the above list does not mean children of all workers in these categories can or will be able to continue to send their children to school. The Government guidance states that “Every child who can be safely cared for at home should be.”
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.
Informal childcare from family and friends can be used if no other methods are available. Children should not be cared for outside of their home if they are ill, or by anyone who is ill. Adults dropping off children for childcare should not enter someone else’s home.
Clinically Extremely Vulnerable Workers
If you are in the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable category and have received a letter confirming this, and you cannot work from home, then you should not attend work. This is particularly the case for those whose work requires them to be in regular or sustained contact with other people, or where individuals share a poorly ventilated workspace for long periods.
WORKPLACES THAT ARE CLOSED
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.
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 your Union Rep or local official.
If you are not a member of Usdaw, please consider joining us today!