Boris Johnson yesterday announced the relaxation of several coronavirus restrictions, with life in Britain finally back on the path to normality following more than three months of lockdown.
The Prime Minister said he wanted to ‘make life easier’ after an ‘incredibly tough time’ for people all over the country and revealed that bars, restaurants, cinemas and hairdressers in England will be able to get back up and running from July 4.
He announced that the social distancing rule is being halved to ‘one metre plus’ to free up thousands of business, with precautions such as face masks deployed to make sure the risks of transmission stay ‘broadly’ the same.
Two households will also be able to gather indoors – meaning families will be able to reunite for the first time in months – though social distancing rules are still in place.
Other relaxations of rules include the resumption of church and other religious services – including wedding ceremonies for up to 30 people – though there is a ban on singing as it poses a ‘particular’ threat of spread.
However, nail bars, gyms and swimming pools will remain off limits and even the relaxed restrictions will come with strings attached, with social distancing measures still very much in place and encouraged by both Mr Johnson and his advisers.
So, what will the new normal look like for Britons from July 4?
Boris Johnson, pictured leaving Downing Street, unveiled the easing of a range of coronavirus restrictions from July 4 yesterday
Pubs and Bars
Millions of Britons will be overjoyed at the news that pubs and bars will be allowed to reopen from July 4 – though visiting your favourite boozer will be a drastically different experience to before lockdown.
For one, you’ll likely have to queue to get in and you’ll be banned from standing at the bar or anywhere else.
Only table service is allowed, with tables also ordered to be a metre apart.
This will obviously then lead to a lower capacity than usual, which could lead to some pubs running a booking system, meaning you’ll have to plan your bar trips, rather than the spontaneous visits of pre-lockdown.
But, in an even more drastic change, customers must give their name and contact details to bar staff, in case someone at the pub later develops coronavirus symptoms.
This is mandatory under the test-and-trace system.
Wetherspoon and Greene King have said customers will be encouraged to use phone apps to order and pay for drinks, while establishments could install screens, hand sanitiser stations and even one-way systems to manage queues.
Phil Weaver, owner of The Old Smithy pub in Church Lawford, Warwickshire holds a pint of beer from behind a protective screen. Pubs will be allowed to reopen from July 4
Like pub-goers, restaurant diners will also have to follow several new rules as part of the ‘new normal’.
You’ll have to book before visiting the restaurant, with the need to follow distancing rules meaning capacity may be lower than usual.
Restaurants will also be installing screens, sanitisers and implementing one-way systems to manage customer queues and meet guidelines.
Customers will also be seated side-by-side if two metre gaps can’t be maintained to reduce transmission risk.
Like pubs, restaurants will also require customers to leave their personal details for the track-and-trace system.
Some restaurants could introduce apps that allow customers to order remotely, while others will use disposable paper menus and ensure service is reduced to lower crowding in kitchens.
However, with the expected reduced capacity, some smaller firms may decide it isn’t financially viable for them to open at all.
Hairdressers and Barbers
Another long-awaited service, Britons will finally be able to get a haircut from July 4, with people all over the country having turned to relatives for dodgy snips during lockdown, with some even deciding to let it all grow for several months.
However, like pubs and restaurants, trips to the barber will be a far more complicated affair than they were pre-lockdown.
Your barber must wear a full visor and gown while cutting your hair, with all equipment, including scissors and combs disinfected after every customer.
Unsurprisingly, this could lead to slower service but refreshments and magazines, usual features to enjoy while you wait, will also be banned.
Britons have also been advised not to bring jewellery, handbags and jackets into salons as the virus can stay on fabrics and metal for several days.
Some salons may even require customers to wear facial coverings and payments must be contactless – with hairdressers encouraged to also ban tips.
Another hurdle to overcome will be the huge demand for a haircut, with salons told to operate at 50 per cent of full capacity to avoid overcrowding.
This has led to some salons already claiming huge backlogs of bookings from Britons eager to lose their lockdown fuzz.
And you can also forget about sharing your coronavirus frustrations with your barber, with hairdressers told to avoid small talk with clients.
A barber wears a protective face mask as he cuts the hair of a customer in central Leeds, northern England just before lockdown was introduced. From July 4, barbers will be required to wear full protective gear
A trip to the movies is a popular pastime for Britons and, unsurprisingly, the return of the cinema is sure to be a popular decision.
However, sitting in a dark theatre, packed together with potentially hundreds of other cinema-goers to watch the latest blockbuster, could potentially be a hotbed for coronavirus spread.
To combat this, cinemas will be required to limit capacity and bookings.
This will ensure that movie lovers can remain socially distanced, whether in the theatre or queuing up outside.
Another issue is that several productions, including the latest installment of James Bond, have been delayed amid the pandemic.
To combat this, cinemas could offer a range of classic movies to whet the appetites of film lovers before the summer’s blockbusters are ready.
In a move more suited to some of the films it puts on, Showcase Cinemas said it had invested in an ‘anti-viral fogging machine that eliminates airborne viruses on contact’
Showcase Cinemas will be using a new anti-viral fogging machine that eliminates airborne viruses on contact, after opening on July 4
The machine will be used on every seat between showings.
Staycations are back on the agenda, with hotels, campsites and holiday cottages permitted as long as they comply with ‘Covid secure’ guidelines.
These guidelines include regular deep-cleaning of rooms and staff members required to wear facemasks when greeting guests.
However, the beloved hotel mini-bars and breakfast buffets have been banned, with tea and coffee sachets in bedrooms also either removed or quarantined for 72 hours between guests.
In better news, there should still be room service available, though you’ll have to take your own luggage into your room.
Camping sites and caravan parks were not expected to be reopened on July 4, but Boris Johnson’s announcement means Britons will be able to pitch up their tents this summer.
There will need to be round-the-clock cleaning of facilities with shared blocks thoroughly and regularly cleaned by operators.
Although the details have yet to be revealed, it is expected that tents will have to be put up at larger distances apart.
This could mean less capacity at sites.
Places of worships
The lockdown has had a significant impact on worshippers, with Easter and Ramadan and Eid among the religious events affected.
To the delight of many Britons, mass gatherings for prayers will be allowed from July 4, though distance will still have to be maintained.
And couples across the country will rejoice to know that weddings, as well as baptisms, will be allowed again, though guests will be limited to 30, which may cause altogether different issues.
Pubs warn customers to pre-book as they brace for a rush on reopening – but nightclubs stay shut
- Screens at the tills and to create seating areas to maintain social distancing;
- Pre-booking required and table service only, with a ban on standing at the bar to drink;
- One entrance with a separate exit door where possible to keep people apart;
- Menus on tables will have to be thrown out after being used once;
- Staff will hand over drinks holding the base of the glass to reduce contact;
- Employees will have to wash their hands between serving different tables.
Pubs in England will be allowed to reopen from July 4 but for table service only – while nightclubs will remain shut, Boris Johnson announced today.
Owners have warned customers to only turn up if they have pre-booked a table as bosses prepare to reopen after being shut for more than three months.
The Prime Minister told the Commons that customers will be allowed back into pubs as they reopen for the first time since closing on March 20 just before lockdown.
But pub-goers will be asked to register before having a drink at their local under plans to limit the spread of Covid-19 as England’s hospitality industry reopens.
Among the measures being mooted are:
Some pubs already have all their tables reserved on the opening day – dubbed ‘Super Saturday’ – with staff taken off furlough to help cope with bookings.
And politicians are expected to go on a PR blitz around the country to encourage people to return to pubs which will reopen with social distancing measures in place.
Churches, mosques, synagogues and temples will be required to be regularly cleaned and provide facilities like sanitiser stations.
Singing will also be banned, to stop the potential spread of the virus.
Playgrounds and outdoor gyms
The risk of coronavirus transmission outdoors is thought to be low, paving the way for playgrounds and outdoor gyms to be reopened.
It is welcome news for parents, with many children still off school and will give them an opportunity to socialise.
Gym-goers will also be cheered by the news, though indoor gyms will still remain closed.
Libraries and community centres
Libraries will be reopened, with Cilip, the UK’s library and information, providing guidance for staff and members of the public.
Despite fears that handling books could pass on the virus, the body found that the risk of picking up a book handled by someone infected with Covid-19 is negligible after 24 hours. If covered in plastic, the risk is negligible after 72 hours.
This means books could be ‘quarantined’ after being returned with a delay before they are back on the shelves.
Libraries are also expected to set up appointments and click-and-collect systems to manage football and discourage browsing.
Bingo halls and community centres will also be able to open on July 4, provided social distancing is maintained.
Museums and galleries
In a less positive note, museums and galleries have warned that they may never be able to reopen because of the financial impact of the pandemic.
The heads of the Tate, National Gallery, British Museum, Victoria And Albert Museum, Science Museum Group and Natural History Museum are yet to confirm opening dates, despite being given government permission to open their doors on July 4.
When they do eventually open, they are expected to have to use appointment and booking systems.
Directors of the Museums Association, Sharon Heal, said visitors should expect a different experience when they do return.
She said: ‘Where they can, museums are planning measures such as one-way systems and timed entry, and implementing strict health and safety measures in line with Government guidance. For those museums that do reopen next month, the experience for visitors will be different – cafes, interactives and play areas might not be open, but the welcome from front of house staff will be as warm as ever.’
Funfairs, theme parks and model villages
Funfairs and adventure parks will be allowed to reopen on July 4, promising summer thrills and fun that many feared wouldn’t be available this year.
Model villages will also be allowed to reopen, as will inside areas of zoos that were not previously reopened.
Alton Towers has announced it will open most outdoor rides and attractions on July 4, as have Chessington, Thorpe Park and Legoland.
So what won’t be reopening?
Though the country is firmly back on the path to normality, several sectors will not be reopening on July 4.
The government feels that these areas are currently incompatible with social distancing measures, though Boris Johnson has promised to set up ‘taskforces’ to look into getting them up and running as soon as possible.
The following will remain closed:
- Massage, tattoo and piercing parlours.
- Bowling alleys
- Ice skating rinks
- Indoor play areas
- Nail bars and beauty salons
- Indoor fitness and dance studios
- Indoor gyms and sports venues and facilities
- Exhibition and conference centres used for external events
- Swimming pools and water parks
Your questions about the July 4 easing of coronavirus lockdown answered
The Prime Minister has announced a series of changes to the lockdown in England from July 4.
Here is how the alterations will affect people’s lives:
Do we have to keep to being two metres apart?
No. For people not from the same household it is now ‘one metre-plus’. The ‘plus’ element is what the PM called mitigation – wearing a mask, regularly washing hands, sitting side-by-side rather than face-to-face – if a two-metre distance cannot be kept to.
What other big changes were announced?
As well as reducing the social distancing requirement, Mr Johnson said two households would be able to start meeting indoors so long as the ‘one metre-plus’ rule is observed.
The household you choose to meet up with does not have to be exclusive, unlike in the ‘social bubbles’ announced recently to help ease loneliness.
It means a family could see one set of grandparents on one weekend and see the other on the following weekend, said the PM.
Can we finally hug our relatives?
If you do not live in the same household, the answer to that is still no.
Two households meeting for dinner can sit at the same table but still must not touch and should attempt to uphold the ‘one metre-plus’ rules.
Can we go anywhere else with another household?
It is a resounding ‘yes’ on this front.
Mr Johnson told MPs that restaurants, pubs and ‘self-contained accommodation’ including hotels, B&Bs and campsites can soon reopen, as long as Government guidelines on how to lower the risk of coronavirus transmission are followed.
So can we go on a trip or to the pub with friends in England?
As long as those friends are from only one other household, then you can take a ‘staycation’ trip together or go for a pint.
What will post-lockdown pubs and restaurants be like?
There will be no hanging out at the bar, first of all, with table service being encouraged to reduce the amount of interaction on shared surfaces.
Restaurant, pub and bar managers will also be asked to take customers’ contact details so that, in the event of a local Covid-19 outbreak, they can be traced by the NHS and advised to self-isolate.
While a trip to the pub is back on the cards, clinking glasses with a large group of friends inside is not.
While there is no limit on the size of the two households visiting the watering hole together, more people cannot join in the socialising in a bid to limit the chain of virus transmission.
What else can reopen from July 4?
The PM read out a lengthy list in the Commons of venues and attractions that can now benefit from the lockdown easing.
They include cinemas, museums, art galleries, bingo halls, community centres, hair salons, work canteens, outdoor playgrounds and gyms, as well as indoor attractions at zoos and aquariums.
Places of worship will be able to hold services once again, with weddings back on but numbers capped at 30.
Theatres and concert halls will be allowed to open but will be banned from playing live performances.
Hairdressers and barbers can operate while using use face visors.
And what will remain shut?
Venues where there is ‘close proximity’ interaction will not be permitted to open their doors yet, the PM said.
That includes nightclubs, indoor gyms, soft-play areas, swimming pools, spas, bowling alleys and water parks.
Instead taskforces will work to ensure such businesses can ‘reopen as soon as possible’.
Are there any changes to meeting up outside?
Outside restrictions remain largely the same, except that the two households now permitted to meet inside are welcome to do the same at the park, with no limit on the size of their gathering.
Groups not from the same household meeting up outside continue to be restricted to a maximum of six.
Should we continue to work from home?
While the Government has not talked up ending the working from home routine that thousands of office staff have adopted since March, the list of steps that could be taken to reduce virus transmission risk might encourage employers to start calling workers back in.
Mr Johnson said ‘reducing the number of people in enclosed spaces, improving ventilation, using protective screens and face coverings’ could all be deployed, on top of keeping a metre away from each other. He also suggested shift patterns could be changed so staff work in set teams.
Is this the end of lockdown, then?
Not fully. There are still restrictions in place but it is a significant easing and the new measures will allow people to socialise more than they have in months.
But the PM warned that local lockdowns, and even a clampdown affecting the whole country, could still be required if major Covid outbreaks occur.
Are these changes being brought in for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?
The devolved administrations ‘hold responsibility for their own lockdown restrictions’, Mr Johnson said on Tuesday, and would proceed ‘on their own judgment’.
Following the PM’s announcement, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told reporters the two-metre rule on social distancing would remain in place but that the Scottish Government had asked its scientific advisory group to review the measure.
In Northern Ireland, up to six people as of Tuesday are able to meet indoors in what the executive called a ‘milestone’ for the region’s recovery.
Wales allowed shops and places of worship to open this week, along with the housing market, but First Minister Mark Drakeford has said his administration will not end its five-mile restriction on travel and allow holidaymakers to return until next month.
Britain gets its summer back: PM halves 2m rule, opens pubs and lets households mix inside from July 4 – but warns he could ‘put the handbrake on at any time’ with 95% of UK still in danger of catching coronavirus
Boris Johnson yesterday dramatically unwound the coronavirus lockdown to bring the country out of ‘hibernation’ – with a return for pubs, haircuts and weddings and family and friends getting the green light to meet up indoors for the first time in months.
The PM said he wanted to ‘make life easier’ after an ‘incredibly tough time’ with bars, restaurants, cinemas and hairdressers in England able to get back up and running from July 4 – dubbed ‘Super Saturday’.
Taking the Downing Street briefing, he announced that the social distancing rule is being halved to ‘one metre plus’ to free up thousands of business, with precautions such as face masks deployed to make sure the risks of transmission stay ‘broadly’ the same.
Mr Johnson insisted the overhaul has been approved by medical chief Chris Whitty and science chief Patrick Vallance – who flanked him inside No10.
But both advisors struck more cautious tones as they answered questions alongside the Prime Minister.
Prof Whitty cautioned: ‘We will be in for really quite a long haul.’
In a stark message, he explained:’If people hear a distorted version of what’s being said, that says ”this is all fine now, it’s gone away” and start behaving in ways that they normally would have before this virus happened, yes, we will get an uptick for sure.
Boris Johnson today declared that life is about to get ‘easier’ as he dramatically unwound the coronavirus lockdown
Chief medical officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance appeared alongside the Prime Minister at today’s Downing Street briefing
‘It is absolutely critical people stick to the guidance that has been given, it’s a changed guidance for there are still very significant restrictions socially and there are very significant restrictions on business of different sorts.’
On the changes to the two-metre rule, Prof Whitty said it was a ‘balance of risk’.
‘I think that this is a reasonable balance of risk,’ he said, but it was ‘absolutely not risk free’.
He also predicted that the country could have to cope with Covid-19 into 2021: ‘I would be surprised and delighted if we weren’t in this current situation through the winter and into next spring.
The return of the Great British staycation: Holidaymakers will be able to book breaks in hotspots like Devon and Cornwall from July 4
- Contactless check-in at hotels, bed and breakfast and camp sites
- Campers will have to stay in their car until they are directed to their pitch
- In all settings they will be expected to stay over a metre apart from someone else
- Breakfast buffets and mini bars are all out for the time being
- Visitors could be asked to bring their own toilets with them
- Guests will also be asked to bring their own hand sanitiser and soap
- All paperwork and phones will be removed from hotel rooms
- Camp sites will clean their toilets six times a day
- In hotels and bed and breakfasts deep cleans after guests have left
- Multiple family holidays are strictly reduced to just two households
- Guests are not allowed to have visitors to where they are staying
Brits will be able to take holidays in beauty spots in places like Devon and Cornwall – as the Prime Minister officially announced staycations from July 4.
Boris Johnson made the announcement in the House of Commons, paving the way for families languishing in lockdown to finally get away from a break.
Hotels were given the green light to throw open their doors as long as they were kept clean and safe.
‘I expect there to be a significant amount of coronavirus circulating at least into that time and I think it is going to be quite optimistic that for science to come fully to the rescue over that kind of timeframe.
‘But I have an absolute confidence in the capacity of science to overcome infectious diseases – it has done that repeatedly and it will do that for this virus, whether that is by drugs, vaccines or indeed other things that may come into play.
‘For medium to long term, I’m optimistic. But for the short to medium term, until this time next year, certainly I think we should be planning for this for what I consider to be the long haul into 2021.’
Sir Patrick also said it was ‘extremely unlikely’ that the virus would ‘burn itself out and disappear’, suggesting the battle would stretch into the winter and 2021.
He said the said the Government’s approach to easing the lockdown was ‘reasonable’ but added: ‘It is not risk free. It cannot be risk free.
‘Every time you take a step to open up there is some associated risk with that.’
He added: ‘I think we are with this a long time.
‘We hope that the vaccines and the therapeutics come along soon but there are no guarantees on any of those.’
Mr Johnson said he would not hesitate to put the ‘handbrake’ on if the virus starts to surge again and acknowledged the caution of his advisors.
He said: ‘As for July 4, I hope it will be a great day but obviously, you know, people have got to make sure they don’t over do it.
‘I know Chris (Whitty) is particularly worried about this – we can’t have great writhing scenes in the beer gardens when the virus could be passed on.
‘This has to be done in a sensible way, people should be giving their names to the pubs, to the restaurants, doing things in a way that allows us, if something does happen, to track back, to test and trace and stamp out any outbreak.
‘That’s the absolutely crucial thing. People should of course enjoy themselves but as Chris and Patrick have said, this is going to be with us for a while. We’ve just got to adjust and make it work.’
The PM added, however, that he wants to see people out and about enjoying themselves again.
‘I think it is great to see people out shopping again. Frankly, I can’t wait to go to a pub or a restaurant even if it may not be wholly compatible with the new diet that I’m on.
‘I think people need to go out and enjoy themselves and rediscover things they haven’t been able to do for a long time.
No hugs for granny yet as families are given the green light to meet indoors – but must stay socially distant
- Two households will be able to meet up in indoor settings from July 4;
- They can even stay overnight in each other’s homes, or meet in restaurants;
- Social distancing must still be observed, with plans for expanded ‘bubbles’ where people can mix freely seemingly shelved;
Grandparents face a potentially agonising reunion with grandchildren under relaxed social distancing rules that allow them to meet indoors but bans hugs.
From July 4 two households of any size will be allowed to meet indoors for the first time in months, under changes announced today.
But social distancing – either remaining two metres apart or ‘one metre plus’ with protection like masks – will have to remain in place.
It raises the prospect of grandparents who may not have seen their grandchildren since early spring unless in the garden will be allowed to have then round and even stay the night.
But they will be officially prohibited from hugging them or giving them a kiss goodnight.
Officials are clear that the new regulations are separate to the ‘social bubble’ plan introduced at the start of June. That allowed two households to act as one, with no social distancing, as long and one of them was a single person living alone or a single parent living with children’.
Although social distancing must remain in place in the new plan, there is no rule on exclusivity, meaning a family could have one set of grandparents to visit one day and the other set the next.
Additionally, the limit on six people at any outdoor gathering is being lifted to allow two households to meet, irrespective of how big they are.
The limit of six people meeting outdoors if they are from more than two households will remain.
‘I want to see bustle, I want to see activity. But I also want to see everybody being careful, staying alert and following the guidance.
‘As for all the things I’m looking forward to, there is a very long list. I’d love to go to the theatre again, I’d like to go and see The Globe. I’d like to go to a restaurant, frankly. I would love to get my hair cut.’
Staycations are back on the agenda, with hotels, campsites and holiday cottages permitted as long as they comply with ‘Covid secure’ guidelines. Church services – including wedding ceremonies for up to 30 people – can restart, but there is a ban on singing as it poses a ‘particular’ threat of spread.
Two households will be allowed to gather indoors, in their homes or at a restaurant or museum, with no limit on numbers. Currently there is a ceiling of six people outdoors, which was seen as disadvantaging bigger families.
But they will have to observe social distancing, meaning grandparents will have to wait a bit longer to hug their grandchildren. A mooted expansion of social ‘bubbles’ to allow people to mix freely has seemingly been shelved.
Nail bars, gyms and swimming pools will also remain off limits after officials decided they are currently too dangerous to operate.
The relaxation – which will take effect on the same day as US Independence Day – comes amid growing optimism that the virus is finally dwindling.
At the press conference, Mr Johnson said: ‘The Government has asked a huge amount of all of you, and… the people of this country met that challenge with good humour and common sense.
‘Of course the fight is far from over. This is a nasty virus still that wants to take advantage of our carelessness.
‘I’m afraid there will be local outbreaks. And I must tell you that if the virus were to begin to run out of control, I will not hesitate to put on the handbrake and reverse some of these changes at local or indeed national level as required.
‘But we can avoid that if we all continue to stay alert and do our bit to control the virus.’
He said despite the winding back of lockdown police would still have the powers to break up large gatherings.
He said: ‘As we give people back more control over their lives we will be asking them to follow guidance on limiting their social contact rather than forcing them to do so through legislation.
‘This obviously requires everyone to act responsibly, which I have no doubt they will do.
‘It will still be possible for police to break up large and irresponsible gatherings but neither the police themselves nor the public that they serve want virtually every aspect of our behaviour to be subject to the criminal law.’
Sir Patrick said the epidemic continued to shrink – ‘albeit slowly’ – by between 2 per cent and 4 per cent a day.
He said that currently around 0.06 per cent of the population of the UK – 33,000 people – was now estimated to have the disease and that the numbers were ‘flattening off’ rather than going down to zero.
‘Don’t be fooled that this means it has gone away. The disease is growing across the world. It is coming down in the UK but it hasn’t gone away,’ he said.
Prof Whitty said more lockdown relaxing or tightening might come with developments in science.
He said: ‘Every few weeks we have a different understanding of this virus.
‘Therefore as our understanding changes, our countermeasures change and the epidemiological changes and, of course, there may be a possibility to relax some things and a need maybe to increase others.
‘So I think this shouldn’t be seen as a static picture for several different reasons but it is going to be a long haul, and everybody standing here fully appreciates this is going to be a long haul.’
He predicted that the country could have to cope with Covid-19 into 2021.
He said: ‘I would be surprised and delighted if we weren’t in this current situation through the winter and into next spring.
‘I think then let’s regroup and work out where we are.’
Mr Johnson stressed that it was for politicians to decide on policy, with input from experts.
‘Of course, I take responsibility, the Government takes responsibility for these decisions,’ he told the No 10 briefing.
‘We are indebted to our scientific colleagues for their advice continually, but it is our responsibility to choose.’
The great back to work guide: What happens after furlough? Is it safe to travel to the office? Will I lose my job if I refuse? We answer your most pressing questions
Working lives across the country have changed beyond recognition since the pandemic.
Official figures show that one in four working adults has been furloughed, while around half of employees have been doing their jobs from home.
Now, as many businesses are beginning to re-open, workers are facing fresh uncertainty. Here, FIONA PARKER and AMELIA MURRAY talk you through all you need to know . . .
Back to work: Government advice on social distancing measures in the workplace is not law, but under the Health and Safety at Work Act, employers must ensure workers are safe
1. Can I still work from home if I choose?
The Government said if you can work from home, you should, but legally your employer does not have to let you, so your job could be at risk if you refuse. But always ask the question.
Many firms have already told staff they will not return until September. If your employer is difficult, you could be able to claim unfair dismissal if you have a good reason for not going back yet.
If you are shielding because of a medical condition, you may be protected by the Equality Act, which prevents disabled workers from being discriminated against.
2. What if I don’t think it will be safe?
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, employers must ensure workers are safe. If you are concerned about social distancing measures, talk to your boss.
If you are ignored, contact a trade union or health and safety representative. If you still have concerns, call the Health and Safety Executive on 0300 003 1747.
3. How soon could I have to go back?
There is no legal requirement of how much notice an employer must give you before summoning you back to work.
But they are expected to be reasonable. Jemma Fairclough-Haynes, an employment law specialist at Orchard Employment Law, says: ‘We advise businesses to give staff at least a week’s notice.’
Many firms have already told staff they will not return until September. If your employer is difficult, you may be able to claim unfair dismissal if you have a good reason for not going back
4. Can furlough be part-time?
From July 1, your employer will be able to furlough you on a pro-rata basis, as long as you’ve been furloughed for at least three weeks between March 1 and June 30.
So if you normally work five days a week, you could be furloughed for two and work the remaining three. This is also the case if you have a limited company and furloughed yourself.
Will the Government still pay my wages?
At present the Government is paying 80 per cent of furloughed workers’ wages — up to £2,500 a month.
From August, employers will have to start paying National Insurance and pension contributions again.
Then, from September, the Government will reduce the amount it pays towards workers’ wages to 70 per cent, up to £2,187.
At this point, employers must top up furlough employees’ pay to 80 per cent.
The scheme is set to finish in October. During this final month, the Government will pay just 60 per cent of workers’ wages.
Again, employers must top staff members’ pay up to at least 80 per cent. Some firms are paying furloughed staff 100 per cent of their pay.
5. Could my hours be reduced?
A short-time working clause in your contract or furlough agreement will allow your employer to reduce your working hours.
You will be entitled to statutory guarantee pay for the days you would normally be working.
This will only be £30 a day for five days over a three-month period, so £150 maximum.
Check your contract, as your employer may offer a better scheme. You can apply for redundancy if you’ve received less than half a week’s pay for four or more weeks in a row, or six weeks in a 13-week period.
6. Can I apply for another job?
The Government allows furloughed employees to take second jobs, but many employers don’t.
If you are doing anything that provides revenue or services to your employer while furloughed, it could be committing a criminal offence.
If this happens, complain to your boss in writing and if you are ignored, complain directly to HMRC. You can still apply for any future permanent jobs while you are furloughed.
7. What happens if I have to self-isolate?
Many employers are paying staff as normal if they are forced to self-isolate and can still work from home.
If you can’t, you’ll be entitled to statutory sick pay at £95.85 a week, as long as you earn at least £120 a week and are not self-employed.
‘Many employers also pay occupational sick pay, which is much more generous,’ says Nadia Motraghi, senior barrister at Old Square Chambers.
8. What about the self-employed?
A short-time working clause in your contract or furlough agreement will allow your employer to reduce your working hours
If you are shielding, you can apply for a grant from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, which has been extended.
You can claim up to 80 per cent of average trading profits over three months, capped at £7,500.
The money is taxable. You have until July 13 to claim your first payment and can claim a second payment in August if your business is still adversely affected, but it will not be as generous — 70 per cent, capped at £6,570. If you are not eligible, you may be entitled to Universal Credit.
9. Can I get home equipment?
Your employer is not legally obliged to kit you out with a home office. However, it does have to ensure staff are working safely.
‘This may include providing proper equipment, such as an office chair,’ says Helen Watson, head of employment at law firm Aaron & Partners.
If your employer does not reimburse you for the equipment you need, you may be able to claim back tax relief.
You’ll need to send a P87 claims form to HMRC. The Government increased the flat-rate tax deduction to cover additional expenses, such as phone calls and energy bills, from £4 to £6 a week in April.
Many employers are paying staff their normal salaries if they are forced to self-isoalte and can still work from home
10. Has my pension been affected?
Unless your employer has topped up your furlough wages, your pension contributions will drop, because they will be based on four-fifths of your usual salary — or less if you earn more than £30,000.
The Government is covering the cost of at least 3 per cent employer contributions on earnings from £520 to £2,500 a month until August 1, when bosses are expected to begin paying again.
11. What if I’m made redundant?
If you are made redundant while on furlough, your rights are no different. Your employer must consult with you beforehand.
The statutory minimum notice period for redundancy is one week for every year you have been employed, up to 12 weeks.
If you have worked at the company for at least two years, statutory redundancy pay is a week’s wages for every year you have been there, for those aged 22 to 40.
This increases to a week-and-a-half’s wages once you are 41 or older. Many firms will offer their own redundancy packages.
Redundancy pay is not taxable under £30,000.
Stay home: Many firms have told staff they will not be returning to the office until September at the earliest, or are asking employees to return only if they can avoid public transport
12. Will I still get Universal Credit?
If you get a new job you must contact the Department for Work and Pensions immediately to inform them.
Depending on your new wages, your Universal Credit payments will change, but they may not stop completely.
Typically, for every £1 you earn, Universal Credit payments are reduced by 63p. People with children or a partner with disabilities, may have a ‘work allowance’ that protects their benefits.
13. Can I be forced to take holiday?
Your employer can ask you to take annual leave, but should give you notice.
This is usually double the amount of time they want you to have off, says employment lawyer Danielle Parsons from Slater & Gordon. So you should get two weeks’ notice to take one week off.
If you don’t want to take holiday, you could ask for it to be carried forward.
Ms Parsons adds: ‘The Government has introduced a temporary law, which allows employees affected by coronavirus to carry over up to four weeks of paid holiday into the next two years.’
14. What if I can’t get childcare?
If you cannot organise childcare, your employer can ask you to take unpaid or annual leave.
But Ms Parsons says it may not be reasonable for employers to insist on your return if you have childcare issues.
The first step is to see if you can come to a solution with your employer. If that fails, she says you could have a potential employment tribunal claim for discrimination, depending on the circumstances.