Monday 4 May 2020 7:54 am

Government outlines workplace rules for UK companies to relax lockdown

Companies must limit hot desking and introduce protective screens once the UK lockdown eases and people return to offices, a government document says.

Staff canteens will stay closed while ministers will push employers to encourage home-working and stagger shift times, the draft document reportedly suggests.

Read more: Coronavirus lockdown: Office workers to be last to return to work

The business department has drawn up seven such documents that outline the UK roadmap out of lockdown. The recommendations are based on discussions with bosses, unions and trade bodies.

Staggered shift times should improve social distancing inside offices, where employers must keep staff two metres apart. Bosses must use floor tape to set out spacing if necessary.

And protective screens and equipment will be used where keeping the two-metre gap is not possible, according to the BBC, which has seen one draft document.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to reveal his route out of the UK lockdown on Sunday.

Read more: Robot waiters, half the tables, and crossed fingers: How restaurants will reopen after UK lockdown ends

Plastic screens could become standard features at bank branches and shops and they are already present in supermarkets. Companies must also provide more parking spaces to avoid employees sharing cars.

The government privately distributed the documents yesterday. They are seen as a critical step towards ending the UK lockdown.

Ministers will review the restrictions this Thursday. But it is unlikely the UK will lift lockdown measures early this month.

While the UK coronavirus death toll is falling, it is Europe’s worst after Italy. And yesterday cabinet minister Michael Gove faced pressure on whether earlier mass testing efforts could have saved more British lives.

Staff could still work from home after UK lockdown ends

Deaths rose to 28,446 as of 2 May, only just behind Italy. The government hit its target of 100,000 daily tests last Friday but that included many tests mailed out to people that had not yet been returned.

Read more: Five tests to end UK coronavirus lockdown: Which ones have we met?

Many UK companies have been forced to shut since the lockdown began on 23 March. And economic data has shown the shutdown has had a devastating impact on the economy.

However, it is unlikely that businesses will be able to quickly reopen.

Office workers will be urged to work from home for months to prevent buses and trains being overwhelmed, according to the FT.

Read more: Coronavirus lockdowns: Which countries have relaxed social distancing measures?

Employers with more than five staff must draw up a coronavirus risk assessment before allowing staff back in the office. That will state how companies will maintain safe working during the outbreak.

There was little detail on personal protective equipment (PPE) use among workers, however. 

Meanwhile, shoppers will be encouraged to shop on their own. And retailers that reopen may follow supermarkets’ lead in enforcing queues outside and possible closing cafes.