How will local lockdowns impact business – and what should you do to prepare? Leicester became the first city in the UK to undergo a local lockdown on 29 June; this has revealed some common barriers faced by firms that can help others to prepare. Challenges include uncertainty over what restrictions are being reintroduced, whether employees based in an affected area can travel to their place of work that’s outside the lockdown zone and vice versa, and, most importantly, how to provide clear and accurate communications to staff on what the lockdown means for them.
Learn from the challenges and good practice emerging from Leicester businesses, what you should consider as part of your business risk mitigation planning and find answers to business’ frequently asked questions.
On Friday 17 July, the UK government announced its plans to manage localised spikes in coronavirus outbreaks, which consist of a two-pronged approach:
- Giving unitary metropolitan councils and county councils (Upper Tier Local Authorities) new powers to close specific premises, shut public outdoor spaces, and prevent specific events
- Giving ministers additional powers to intervene locally if they feel council action is not sufficient. Where justified, they will also be able to close whole sectors, introduce local stay at home orders and prevent people leaving or entering areas and restrict the amount of people attending areas, and stop local transport.
The government is planning on publishing draft regulations outlining what central government intervention should look like on the week commencing 20 July, and we will update our factsheet with links to the guidance when it is available.
On the Leicester lockdown: non-essential retail was ordered to close, and restaurants, cafes and pubs did not reopen on 4 July. The government has issued specific guidance on businesses impacted by the Leicester lockdown, and what the restrictions are. Please be aware that subsequent local lockdowns may have different restrictions and guidance –
Considerations for businesses planning and responding to local lockdowns
Build the possibility of local lockdowns into your business continuity plans
Local lockdowns can now be added to the list of business continuity risks businesses face as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s important for firms to consider how local lockdowns may impact them – and to make any preparations necessary to mitigate those impacts.
To create an effective plan, there are questions businesses should consider before a local lockdown comes into effect:
- Does your business operate in or close by to any areas with higher infection rates? It’s important to keep an eye on local outbreaks so you can see any potential local lockdowns coming down the road
- Is your business likely to remain open or closed in the event of a local lockdown? It’s important to note that exact restrictions may differ between locations, but it’s important to understand what the most likely scenario is for your business. For example, because the Leicester lockdown took place prior to 4 July, the only businesses to close again were non-essential retail, and the only businesses prevented from reopening were pubs, restaurants and cafes
- Are you aware of where your employees are based? Are the majority nearby, or in neighbouring localities that may have different rules / restrictions in the event of a local lockdown?
- Are you aware of your employees’ childcare or other caring responsibilities? A local lockdown situation could impact the opening of nurseries, schools and other childcare facilities
- Would you know where to go or who to speak to at your local authority in the event of a local lockdown? Find out which team is coordinating your local authority’s coronavirus response and build up relationships in advance with local councillors as well as your Local Enterprise Partnership.
Clear messages, clearly communicated
Ensure you understand any restrictions or measures implemented
One of the most important takeaways from the Leicester lockdown has been to ensure everyone understands and is aligned on what a local lockdown really means. What restrictions are in place, who can travel from where, what businesses can remain open. If you are in any doubt about what your local restrictions are, get in touch with the relevant team at your local authority. It’s probably worth noting that it will likely be upper-tier local authorities making these calls, such as county councils or unitary authorities. Your Local Enterprise Partnership is also likely to be a useful source of information.
Send out clear, reassuring communications to staff
Businesses impacted by the Leicester lockdown have reported staff feeling anxious about being at work – particularly in cases where employees are travelling into the lockdown area, or where the business is based outside it but has employees commuting in from the lockdown area. Peoples’ emotional responses to local lockdowns should not be underestimated: its important to build confidence for those still working that it is safe to do so, as long as social distancing and health and safety measures are followed.
To build confidence, clear, consistent communication from employers is key, educating staff on what the rules are, how they should be followed, and any additional safety measures put in place for employees’ safety. If people receive conflicting messages or are unclear what the restrictions are – this is what can lead to anxiety about coming into work. Listen to employees’ concerns – directly if you can, or through employee groups – and try to respond to any questions or concerns about how you can remain open safely through a local lockdown.
Frequently asked questions
How do I support vulnerable staff in a local lockdown?
Requirements for vulnerable people will shift from local lockdown to local lockdown as will be determined by the wider public health context. In local lockdown situations, it is important for employers to put any necessary measures in place to help protect those who are vulnerable or shielding. Based on how Leicester’s lockdown has been implemented, shielders have be advised not work outside their home. In this instance, employers should make provisions for people to work from home – either in their own or a different role. Where this is not possible, employers should check whether employees are eligible to be furloughed via the Job Retention Scheme (note that the employee must have been furloughed for at least three consecutive weeks between 1 March and 30 June 2020).
How long will local lockdowns last?
There is currently no set point – in terms of the infection rate or the reproduction (R) rate – for what triggers a local lockdown or for when a local lockdown will come to an end. Every individual instance will be different, and takes into account a number of complex factors, including the extent of the outbreak and public health considerations. We will update this factsheet when and if more government guidance is provided. In the meantime, we advise businesses to engage with your local authorities if a local lockdown comes into effect in your area. Many businesses based centrally, but operating across multiple geographies, will need to be aware of developments across the UK, which is part of the complexity of situation.
What is the best way for business to engage with government over local lockdowns?
It’s not currently clear how businesses will dock into new local lockdown processes. However, in the guidance it says government will shortly publish action cards to help businesses and other organisations work effectively with their local public health teams to manage an outbreak. The CBI will update this factsheet when there has been more clarity on this issue.
How should businesses respond to outbreaks in their workforce?
Businesses have an important role to play in helping to minimise the impact of local outbreaks by having robust processes in place, and following government guidance on when to escalate to local public health experts. If businesses experience more than one case of COVID-19 in a workplace, they must contact their local protection team immediately. Employers can find further guidance, including how to find their local health protection team, in the government’s test and trace guidance for employers.
The Institute for Government has provided some helpful guidance on local lockdowns – what they are, why they are happening – and which branches of government have the power to implement which measures.
Lockdown restrictions in the nations
It should be noted that, separate to the issue of local lockdowns, the guidance on lockdown restrictions differs between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Leicester lockdown
- Read the government guidance for businesses affected by the Leicester lockdown
- Read the government guidance on the affected areas and local restrictions in place, as well as links to further guidance on social distancing, education and childcare settings and travel in and out of Leicester.
Test and trace
Businesses based in an area impacted by a local lockdown may be more likely to hear from the NHS Test and trace team. You can learn more about NHS Test and Trace in our dedicated factsheet.
Workplace Action Cards
The government has shared printer-friendly ‘Action Cards’ to help workplaces understand their responsibilities to identify, report and respond to outbreaks of coronavirus.
By following this guidance, you can play your part to help prevent the spread of infection and reduce the risk of further disruption from COVID-19.
Self-isolating after returning to the UK
The government has produced guidance on employment rights for workers and employers on self-isolating after returning to the UK.