Wales 'fire-break' lockdown: What employers need to know

Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced a two-week lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19. Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula, highlights how this will affect employers.

Wales Fire-Break Lockdown Work

What is a ‘fire-break’ lockdown?

The Welsh Government has announced that it will implement a ‘fire-break’ lockdown throughout Wales to help regain control of the coronavirus. The short, sharp ‘circuit breaker’ or ‘fire-break’ lockdown will introduce a series of restrictive measures across Wales that will be in place from 6pm on Friday 23 October until Monday 9 November 2020.

What restrictions will be in place in Wales?

Essentially, the rules that applied back in March around staying at home will once again be applied in Wales, including:

  • people must stay at home, except for very limited purposes
  • people must not visit other households or meet other people they do not live with
  • certain businesses and venues, including bars, restaurants and most shops must close
  • secondary schools will be closed for an additional week after half term, although primary schools and childcare settings will remain open
  • face coverings continue to be mandatory in the indoor public spaces that remain open (subject to certain exemptions and exceptions), including on public transport and in taxis

Which businesses need to close during the ‘fire-break’ lockdown in Wales?

A full list of businesses that are required to close temporarily will be published shortly and this page will be updated once the list has been released.

If your business is forced to close because of the new lockdown there is financial support for businesses, with almost £300m available under the Economic Resilience Fund to help businesses through the ‘fire-break’ period.

How does the ‘fire-break’ lockdown in Wales affect employers?

Although Wales has generally been less flexible about working from home than other areas of the UK – never really moving from advice that those who could work from home should do so – any apparent flexibility has been temporarily removed. If you live in Wales, you must work from home if you can.

For non-essential offices, this means that all employees who can work from home will need to be permitted to. While this may not be welcome news for employers, they will presumably have responded to this call back in March and may, this time, be in a more prepared position to react to it.

If staff cannot work from home, employers may be able to make use of:

The fact that this ‘circuit break’ lockdown is scheduled for school half term may help to mitigate the impact of staff needing to change childcare arrangements. Primary schools will also remain open other than during usual half term holidays and secondary schools will re-open after the half-term for children in Year 7 and 8.

That said, it is essential to remember that previously made plans for childcare may need to change due to the new rules and childcare issues are still likely. Employers will therefore need to consider flexibility and legal rights afforded to parents over this period.

Unlike the March lockdown, this one does at least have a time limit; it will last until 9 November and will not continue past this date. However, what further restrictions the Welsh government will put into place remain to be seen. What is clear is that the coronavirus crisis is far from over, and we will likely see many more announcements of this nature.

About the author

Kate Palmer is Associate Director of Advisory at global employment law consultancy at Peninsula.

See also

How to support workers without childcare

Working from home: what are the pros and cons for your business?

What is flexible working?

What you need to know about the Job Support Scheme

Find out more

Coronavirus circuit break: frequently asked questions (GOV.Wales)

Claim for wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (GOV.UK)

Job Support Scheme (GOV.UK)

Image: Getty Images

Publication date: 19 October 2020

Any opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and the author alone, and does not necessarily represent that of The Gazette.