Coronavirus advice for employers

People in Britain are allowed to leave their homes for only “very limited purposes”, such as shopping for basic necessities; for one form of exercise a day; for any medical need; and to travel to and from work when “absolutely necessary”.

Recent developments

Prime Minister’s address

Last night (23 March), Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a major ramping up of coronavirus measures. From last night, people in Britain are allowed to leave their homes for only “very limited purposes”, such as shopping for basic necessities; for one form of exercise a day; for any medical need; and to travel to and from work when “absolutely necessary”.

Key points from the PM’s address:

  • People have been warned not to meet friends or family members who they do not live with;

  • Shopping is only permitted for essentials like food and medicine, and people are advised to do it “as little as you can”;

  • Police have powers to enforce the rules, including through fines and dispersing gatherings;

  • All shops selling non-essential goods, such as clothing and electronic stores, are ordered to close;

  • Libraries, playgrounds, outdoor gyms and places of worship are to close;

  • All gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with – are banned;

  • All social events, including weddings and baptisms are banned;

  • Funerals are not included in the new restrictions;

  • Parks will remain open for exercise but gatherings will be dispersed;

  • The restrictions are “under constant review” and will be checked again in three weeks. They will be relaxed “if the evidence shows we are able to”, said the prime minister.

Further businesses and premises to close

Guidance has been issued detailing the closure of all non-essential businesses and premises as part of further social distancing measures. All non-essential premises must now close. Takeaway and delivery services may remain open and operational in line with guidance on Friday 20 March. Online retail is still open and encouraged and postal and delivery service will run as normal. Retail and public premises which are expected to remain open must follow certain measures, detailed in the guidance.

Other developments:

  • The head of the World Health Organization has said the coronavirus pandemic is “accelerating”;

  • British travellers have been urged to return home immediately (see below);

  • There are reports of many non-critical workers in the UK are still turning up to do their jobs because their employers are asking them to;

  • Some businesses are unsure if the new measures apply to them – such as the construction industry. People should work from home “wherever possible” but there will be exceptions. For example, plumbers may be called out to emergencies;

  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak will outline more help for self-employed workers later today;

  • Deliveries of “non-essential” goods such as toys and clothes can continue under the new measures;

  • In terms of visiting elderly relatives, maintaining contact through social media is the ideal but it is permissible to drop off items or groceries etc if they are unable to visit a shop themselves.

The UK’s full guidance on the new measures can be found here.

Latest figure

The number of COVID-19 cases has surpassed 300,000 globally.

According to the WHO’s latest Situation Report [23 March 2020], there are:


  • 332,930 confirmed;

  • 14,510 deaths.

European Region

  • 171,424 confirmed;

  • 8,743 deaths

Figures from Worldometer show:


  • 6,650 confirmed cases;

  • 335 deaths.


  • 1,125 confirmed cases;

  • 6 deaths.

Olympic Games

The Head of Health and Safety for the London Olympics has called on the International Olympic Committee to postpone the 2020 games. According to Lawrence Waterman OBE, Chairman of the British Safety Council, the games cannot go ahead as planned without putting people in Japan, athletes and visitors at risk. Social distancing requirements in place amongst many competitor nations are currently preventing athletes from training safely.

School closures and key workers

Parents have been told that if you can keep your children at home, do so. But key workers still have the right to send their children to school. These are workers in:

  • Health and social care, including doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff;

  • Education and childcare;

  • Key public services including those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services, “those responsible for the management of the deceased”, and journalists and broadcasters who provide public service broadcasting;

  • Local and national government;

  • Food and other necessary goods, including those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery;

  • Public safety and national security, including police and support staff; Ministry of Defence civilians, contractor and armed forces personnel; fire and rescue service employees, border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles;

  • Transport;

  • Utilities, communication and financial services.

Online isolation notes launched

People unable to work for more than seven days because of coronavirus can obtain an isolation note through a new online service. Isolation notes will provide employees with evidence for their employers that they have been advised to self-isolate due to coronavirus, either because they have symptoms or they live with someone who has symptoms, and so cannot work. As isolation notes can be obtained without contacting a doctor, this will reduce the pressure on GP surgeries and prevent people needing to leave their homes.

For the first seven days off work, employees can self-certify so they don’t need any evidence for their employer. After that, employers may ask for evidence of sickness absence. Where this is related to having symptoms of coronavirus or living with someone who has symptoms, the isolation note can be used to provide evidence of the advice to self-isolate. People who need to claim Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance because of coronavirus will not be required to produce a fit note or an isolation note.

The notes can be accessed through the NHS website and NHS 111 online.

For more information, click here.

Emergency bill to strengthen coronavirus (COVID-19) response plans

Emergency measures to give ministers powers to take the right action at the right time to respond effectively to the progress of the coronavirus outbreak will be introduced to Parliament this week, the Health and Soci