PM confirms further relaxation of restrictions in England

11 May 2021

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that the next stage in the roadmap out of lockdown can go ahead from Monday 17 May in England.

As previously announced, England’s roadmap out of lockdown comes in stages, which started on 8 March 2021 with the reopening of schools for children of all ages. The next big date was 12 April 2021, in which non-essential retail was permitted to reopen and outdoor hospitality could resume. All along the way, the Government have been assessing the impact of lifting certain restrictions through the following four tests:

  1. Continued success of the vaccine rollout.

  2. Evidence that the jabs are continuing to reduce hospitalisation and death from the virus.

  3. Infection rates remaining under control.

  4. The risk from a new variant of the virus remaining low.

With the data looking favourable, the Government is prepared to go ahead with the next stage of the plan. This means that from 17 May:

  • pubs and restaurants can reopen for indoor service with social distancing restrictions, including the rule of six. There will, however, be no restrictions on the serving of alcohol and customers will not need to buy food to be served alcoholic drinks

  • hotels, hostels and B&Bs can reopen

  • up to 30 people can meet outdoors and the same number are allowed to attend a support group or parent-and-child group (not counting under-fives)

  • indoor venues, such as cinemas, conference centres, sports stadia and soft-play centres, can reopen, again with social distancing in place

  • care home residents will be allowed up to five named visitors with more freedom for visits out of the home

  • up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings and receptions. The number attending funerals will no longer be capped but will be determined by the size of the venue.

  • In the education sector, all remaining university students will be eligible to return to in-person teaching and face coverings will no longer be recommended in secondary schools for pupils.

With regard to travelling abroad, it has been confirmed that while travel for non-essential purposes will no longer be against the law, a traffic light system will be in place. This means that people can travel to countries labelled “green” with no need to isolate upon return; countries labelled “amber” require a 10-day isolation period upon return and countries labelled “red” require travellers to quarantine in a Government mandated hotel, at their own cost. For a full list of which countries fall into which category, alongside testing requirements for travel, please click here.

Although it was not mentioned by the Prime Minister, it is expected that rules surrounding working from home will remain the same for now, meaning that staff should still be permitted to work from home if they can. In the meantime, vaccines continue to be distributed as quickly as supply allows and employees should continue to be encouraged to receive both jabs when offered. The furlough scheme will remain an option for eligible organisations and staff until the end of September 2021, although changes as to how the scheme is funded are expected from 1 July.

Organisations will now be in a position to ask even more staff to return to the workplace and they should prepare for this. It would also be advisable to be ready for an influx in requests for annual leave as overseas travel once again becomes an option and more things start to reopen.

The final date in the Government’s roadmap is currently 21 June 2021, when the majority of remaining restrictions are expected to be lifted and all remaining businesses, such as nightclubs, will be able to reopen. Whether some restrictions will need to remain in place, including social distancing and the mandatory wearing of face masks, is yet to be confirmed.

Comment by Kate Palmer, HR Advice Director at Peninsula

Although this news will not come as a significant surprise, with favourable data on the level of virus circulating in England and the number of people vaccinated continuing to increase at a substantial rate, businesses have now been given a final confirmation that the next stage of England’s roadmap out of lockdown is to go ahead from Monday 17 May.

They have now been given seven days’ notice of re-starting their operations or operating more widely again. More staff will receive the call to return to work, and employers should not delay doing this, ensuring to stick to any notice period for recall that was agreed at the outset. Where no notice of return was agreed, as much notice as possible should be given. All Covid-secure measures should be in place to protect employees from exposure to the virus; despite the lowering of overall Covid alert level across Great Britain, social distancing rules remain in place when not with friends or family.

Furlough arrangements can be concluded for some, although businesses should remember that they still have the flexibility to re-furlough staff where necessary until the end of September 2021 and furlough others for the first time, albeit with a reduction to wage funding from July.

Those remaining employers who are still unable to open, including nightclubs, can take today’s announcement as a strong indication that everything is on track for the final stage of reopening on 21 June 2021, when all enforced business closure will be lifted.