Thursday, 29 Jul 2021

Don't expect to see end of face masks or plastic screens at work after July 19

Workplaces could look much the same after Freedom Day as new guidance recommends staff continue to wear masks and social distance.

The document, published just days before nearly all restrictions are dumped, has been slammed as a ‘recipe for chaos’.

It suggests plastic screens, back-to-back desks and ‘fixed teams or partnering’ be kept in place after July 19.  

Employers are invited to review layouts, using screens or barriers to separate workers from one other.

The work from home order will be lifted on Monday – but the Government has proposed staff come back slowly and ‘make working arrangements that meet both business and individual needs’.

The new advice, which could cause disputes between workers and employers, applies to crowded, enclosed spaces.

This includes offices, factories, construction sites and close contact services such as hairdressers.

Both staff and customers in shops are ‘expected and recommended’ to wear masks, despite them being no longer required by law.

It comes as mayors across the UK stage a revolt, ordering face coverings to remain mandatory on public transport.

Monday was set to mark the return of buying drinks at the bar, but it’s recommended table service continues in the new document.

Unions and businesses have named the long-awaited document ‘a real mess’, saying it is likely to cause uncertainty.


Dr Roger Barker, policy director at the Institute of Directors, said bosses are ‘understandably confused’ by the ‘series of mixed messages and patchwork requirements’.

He said: ‘Return to work or continue to stay at home. Throw away your masks or continue to wear them. Today’s long-awaited guidance from Government has done little to dispel that confusion.’

Paddy Lillis, the general secretary of the shop union Usdaw, said he was ‘very disappointed’ the Government didn’t consult broadly with unions and employers on the guidance.

He continued: ’So what they have now published, just a few days before it comes into force, provides no assurances for staff or employers. It is a real mess.

‘Protection for retail workers through wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing in busy public areas like shops should be backed up by the law.’

Meanwhile, pubs, restaurants and nightclubs have been encouraged to check vaccine and testing status as a condition of entry through the NHS Covid Pass.

Some nightclub bosses has refused to follow the ‘non-compulsory scheme’ as Boris Johnson opts for a tactic of ‘personal responsibility’ among the public.

REKOM UK, which owns chains Pryzm, Bar&Beyond, and Fiction among other clubs, has ruled out asking for vaccine passports

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