• International Workplace
  • 6 May 2020

Government to release guidance to get people back to work

The government is expected to release a series of papers this week that will lay out how it plans to safely and gradually restart the economy. Last week it invited businesses, trade bodies, unions and other workers representatives to offer their views on how best to slowly restart the UK economy. However, as yet there is no confirmed date for when such a restart will happen.

Organisations consulted were asked to share their views on seven different areas:

  • Hospitality and leisure – pubs, clubs, restaurants, cinemas and theatres.
  • Work in people’s homes – plumbers, painters and decorators, carers.
  • Factories and warehouses
  • Shops and branches
  • Offices
  • Working outdoors – including agriculture, construction and energy
  • Transport and vehicles

Based on these discussions, the position papers are expected to comprise a set of broad guidelines, which will not be too prescriptive as to be inflexible.

The government wants to involve unions and the Health and Safety Executive to endorse the plans and to provide a channel for any worker concerns at the new arrangements. The guidance documents contain a series of proposals for each type of work:


General guidance for all workplaces

  • Staggering arrival/departure times to reduce crowding in and out.
  • Handwashing or hand sanitation at entry and exit points.
  • Washing uniforms on site rather than at home.
  • Introducing more one-way flow routes through buildings.
  • Reducing maximum occupancy for lifts, providing hand sanitiser for the operation of lifts, and encouraging use of stairs.
  • Reviewing layouts to allow staff to work further apart from each other.
  • Using floor tape or paint to mark areas to help staff maintain two metres' distance.
  • Using screens to create a physical barrier between people where appropriate.
  • Using protective screening for staff in receptions or similar areas.

Hotels and restaurants

  • Bar areas must be closed.
  • Seated restaurants and cafés must be closed.
  • All food and drink outlets to serve takeaways only.
  • Allowing access to as few people as possible into kitchens.
  • Spacing workstations two metres apart as much as possible.
  • Minimising access to walk-in pantries, fridges, and freezers, with likely only one person being able to access these areas at one point in time.
  • Minimising contact at “handover” points with other staff, such as when presenting food to serving staff and delivery drivers.
  • Hand sanitiser for visitors.
  • Using contactless card payments.

Workers in other people’s homes

  • Discussing with households ahead of a visit to ask that a two-metre distance is kept.
  • Asking that households leave all internal doors open.
  • Limiting the time spent in close proximity to no more than 15 minutes.
  • Allocating the same workers to a household where jobs are repetitive.

Factories and warehouses

  • Planning for the minimum number of people needed on site.
  • Servicing and adjusting ventilation systems.
  • Frequent cleaning of work areas and equipment.
  • Regular cleaning of reusable delivery boxes.

Shops and branches

  • Defining the number of customers that can follow two-metre social distancing within the store.
  • Suspending or reducing some customer services.
  • Encouraging customers to shop alone.
  • Staggered collection times for customers collecting items.
  • Setting up no-contact return procedures.
  • Cashless refunds.
  • Keeping returns separate from displayed merchandise.


  • Office staff should work from home if at all possible.
  • Employees in roles critical for business can go in.
  • Monitoring the wellbeing of employees who are working from home.
  • Review layouts, line setups, or processes to let employees work further apart.
  • Screens to create a physical barrier between people.
  • Floor tape or paint to mark areas to help employees keep to a two-metre distance.
  • Avoiding use of hot desks and spaces.

Working outdoors

  • Only workers deemed necessary to carry out physical work or supervision should physically attend.
  • Changing layouts to let workers work further apart.
  • Using screens to separate people from each other.

Working in a vehicle

  • Reducing the number of employees at base depots or distribution centres at a given time.
  • Scheduling times for the collection of goods.
  • Loading onto vehicles without interacting with driver.
  • Finding alternative solutions to two-person delivery.
  • Making sure vehicles are well ventilated.
  • Ensure regular cleaning of vehicles.