The government will release a series of documents next week outlining its approach on how to gradually and safely restart the economy.
He invited businesses, professional organizations, unions and other workers’ representatives on Thursday to submit proposals on how best to slowly restart the UK economy.
It is believed that the proposals will not be clearly divided by sector but by work environment.
But there is no confirmed date yet for when such a reboot will take place.
Unions, large companies and business groups were consulted in seven areas:
- Outdoor work – including agriculture, construction and energy
- Non-food retail trade – main street
- Transport and logistics
- Manufacturing – including food processing and engineering
- Indoor work – offices, laboratories, call centers
- Homework – plumbers, painters and decorators, caregivers
- Hotels and leisure – pubs clubs restaurants cinemas theaters
The positions should include a set of broad guidelines based on these discussions, which will not be too restrictive to be inflexible, and since it would be impossible to examine individual premises, it is believed that companies will be allowed to auto -certify that they comply with the directives.
The government wants to involve unions and the health and safety executive to approve the plans and get both workers ‘buy-in and provide a channel for all workers’ concerns about the new provisions.
Guidelines for reopening businesses
The principles do not necessarily insist that workers strictly observe a two-meter social distance rule.
In situations where workers can be kept within two meters, the guidelines may emphasize mitigation measures such as wearing masks or protective clothing, or if possible work back to back rather than face to face .
Union sources say these are very early principles and that they alone would not create a satisfactory basis for a return to work. They said much more detailed technical work would be required.
There are certain sectors which the government has recognized will not be able to function at a meaningful level for many weeks, if not weeks to come, including the hotel and leisure industries.
Simon Emeny, the boss of Fullers, which operates 400 pubs and restaurants, told the BBC that reopening under social distancing rules would be worse than staying closed.
“Think of the practical problems of going to the bathroom, being served at the bar, a plate of food at your table. So few people would want to come, ”he said.
“It would mean that our revenues would drop by almost 80%, but our costs would increase, so it is more catastrophic to open on socially distant directives than to close it.”
This means that there will be very serious questions for the Treasury, as to how long it is willing or able to continue paying millions of wages of workers on leave, as part of a retention program. a job which, according to some estimates, currently costs up to a billion pounds a day.
There is also the question of what will be the demand for the products and services that the reopened businesses will produce and supply. Auto factories and showrooms can reopen – but how many people are in the mood to buy a big ticket like that right now.
Industry organizations recognize that going back to work will be a difficult and delicate exercise – both operationally for businesses and emotionally for many workers.
Union leaders told BBC that there were isolated incidents in which some of their members who had already returned to work had been abused by people in their own communities, frightened workers could bring back the virus with them from their workplace.
The government paid tribute to the public for broadly embracing a simple and often repeated message: “stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives”. He drummed very effectively in a risk averse mindset.
This message can be difficult to “refine,” as the government has said.
The closing of the doors and the departure of millions of workers was a huge government intervention, but widely seen as necessary in the private sector.
Re-opening the doors can be one of the most complex challenges this virus has posed for us.