Last reviewed 4 May 2020

Trade unions and employer organisations have been asked for their views on a draft Government plan setting out how and when anti-coronavirus restrictions can be relaxed so that more people can return to work.

The Prime Minister is expected to reveal the full plan on Sunday 10 May, once the Government has taken account of reactions to the draft and of the latest evidence of the spread of infection.

Although the draft plan has not been made publicly available, it is understood that it includes measures such as maintaining as much home working as possible while introducing staggered shift times to avoid the pre-pandemic rush hours.

Employers will be expected to carry out risk assessments before reopening their premises and will need to consider introducing special hygiene measures (including reducing the use of equipment by more than one person), physical screens and increased use of personal protective equipment (PPE) if social distancing in the workplace is difficult.

Regular testing is also reported to be part of the Government strategy.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, speaking at the daily Downing Street briefing, said there would be “a phased approach which allows us to monitor the impact that those changes are having on public health”.

Speaking for the CBI, Deputy Director General Josh Hardie recognised that health must be the priority in any planned return to work.

“Restart should also be phased,” he said, “built on the enablers of revival: schools, transport and testing, and underpinned by a new wave of economic support. It can be the start of economic renewal — with a shared determination to build-in sustainability and fairness to a long-term vision.”

However, a warning note was struck by the leaders of the main rail unions who have written to the Prime Minister, the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales, and Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, saying this is not the time to lift the lockdown and run more trains.

The letter points out that there is no agreement on how services can be increased while protecting workers and passengers. This includes protections through social distancing, adequate and appropriate PPE, and determination of essential and non-essential tasks.

“We will not accept new working patterns that put the lives of railway workers and passengers at risk, the leaders of ASLEF, RMT and TSSA said. “To be clear — we are not convinced that there is any basis at this time for a safe escalation of services.”