Tiered lockdown – what it means for the workplace
Following the Government’s announcement of the 3 Tier lockdown measures, various parts of the country have been put into differing levels of lockdown. As different areas are under differing restrictions, there is some confusion as to how this affects employees in the workplace.
The new regulations place every area in England into one of three categories depending on the local rate of infection:
• Medium (Tier 1).
• High (Tier 2).
• Very high (Tier 3)
In March, under the initial lockdown regulations, it was considered a criminal offence to travel for work purposes if it was reasonably possible to work from home. However, the regulations changed on 1 June and since then whether an employee works from home or in the office is a choice and subjected to government advice rather than law.
Under the new tiered regulations, the rule of six continues to apply to all Tiers however, Tiers 2 and 3 are banned from mixing with people outside of their household or support bubble in any indoor setting.
The regulations provide an exception to this rule for gatherings that are “reasonably necessary” for work purposes. There has been little clarification from the Government on what can be considered as “reasonably necessary”, so this is really left up to individual interpretation.
Those in Tier 3 are discouraged from travelling in and out of the area. However, there may be some circumstances where it is simply not possible for an employee who is subjected to Tier 3 restrictions to work from home and therefore it will be “reasonably necessary” for them to come into work.
Employers are now asking whether employees who have been placed into Tier 3 lockdown and are able to work from home should be coming into the office. There is no clear-cut answer to this question. Employers may deem it to be “reasonably necessary” to continue to come into work and there are various reasons for this such as for their mental health and wellbeing or insufficient equipment at home.
Employees who live in a higher tier but work in a lower tier must comply with the higher restrictions. For example, an employee living in Tier 3 but working in Tier 1 must comply with the Tier 3 restrictions whilst at work.
In summary, the position on whether employees in Tier 3 can come to work is unfortunately not clear. Employees who can work from home should continue to do so unless it is necessary for them to come into the office, but that is left up to them to decide. Employers must remember that employees who live in a higher tier area must comply with these restrictions even if their place of work is in a lower tier.
If you have any questions about the tier system and what it means for the workplace, please e-mail Paul Kelly at PKelly@LawBlacks.com.