Boris Johnson’s “One-way Road to Freedom”: WFH continues

24th February 2021

Working from Home

Workers in England who can work from home should continue to do so until at least June 2021.  Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivered this news as part of his four-step plan to unlock society and cautiously bring England out of lockdown once and for all.

Step 1:  Schools re-open to pupils on 8 March 2021. No earlier than 29 March 2021 the legal requirement to stay at home will be removed with restrictions on social contact partially relaxed.

Step 2: By no earlier than 12 April 2021 non-essential shops and outdoor hospitality re-open including pub gardens.

Step 3:  By no earlier than 17 May 2021, most rules on social contact outdoors will be removed and indoor hospitality will be permitted with restrictions.

Pre-step 4 review:  A government review will take place into mask-wearing, social distancing and working from home, to be completed before step four is implemented.

Step 4: By no earlier than 21 June 2021, restrictions on social contact will be lifted and it is then that workers should be able to return to the workplace.

The Prime Minister’s four-step plan was heavily caveated, warning that each date is a target based on the best case scenario and every aspect of the plan is subject to change and/or delays.

Jabs & Jobs

The Prime Minister also confirmed “COVID Status Certificates” are being reviewed as a way to lift restrictions safely and bring the economy back to life.   The SMB Employment Team has already commented on mandatory vaccination policies and whether employers can legally require workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Downing Street appears to be considering the feasibility of mandatory vaccinations for workers in some sectors.  During yesterday’s news conference, the Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said doctors and care workers had a professional responsibility to be vaccinated.  Boris Johnson added that some care homes are now considering mandatory vaccinations.

We note the PM said the review of COVID Status Certificates will take account of concerns around discrimination and privacy rights. It is expected to be completed before June 2021.

Furlough Scheme

Media reports today suggest the furlough scheme will be extended until at least July 2021.  The PM would not confirm reports of a further extension yesterday in the House of Commons but did vow to “not pull the rug” out on those businesses that remain shut.  As we previously indicated published reports have floated the idea that Chancellor Rishi Sunak is poised to announce a fifth extension of the scheme along with extended business rate relief until August 2021.  The scheme currently runs until the end of April 2021 with the Chancellor expected to confirm the extension in his Spring budget next week.

Should you require any assistance with your employment arrangements during the COVID-19 pandemic, please do not hesitate to contact the co-head partners of our employment department.  Ewan Keen can be reached at 020 3206 2724 or  or Tamara Ludlow can be reached at 020 3206 2739 or