England is currently in its third lockdown, after the Prime Minister instructed the country to stay at home, once again, during a speech on Jan 4.
The lockdown became law on Jan 6, meaning that people can only leave their homes for specific reasons, such as to exercise or to shop for essential items. You are also permitted to go to work if you cannot work from home, which is the case if you are a key worker.
But, who is classed a key worker? Here’s everything you need to know.
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Am I a key worker?
Key workers are people whose jobs are vital to public health and safety during the lockdowns. Because their work is so vital, the Government is keen to ensure that they are able to carry out their jobs with as little restriction as possible, which means being able to put their children in school and use necessary transport links.
The list includes:
Health and social care
All NHS staff, including administrative and cleaning workers. Frontline health and social care staff such as doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, plus support and specialist staff in the health and social care sector.
In addition it includes those working in supply chains including producers and distributors of medicines and personal protective equipment.
Education and childcare
Nursery, teachers – including teaching assistants – and social workers.
Schools are currently closed for the vast majority of pupils, and the Prime Minister announced on Jan 27 that schools will remain closed following the February half-term.
However, Mr Johnson has stated that schools may be able to reopen on Monday, March 8, should the top four priority groups receive a vaccination by mid-February.
Food and other necessary goods
Food chain workers, including those involved in production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery of goods.
Key public services
Postal workers, those required to run the justice system, religious staff, and those responsible for managing the deceased, and journalists providing public service broadcasting.
Local and national government
Local and national government workers in admin roles “essential to the effective delivery” of the Covid-19 response or delivering essential public services, including payment of benefits.
Staff needed to keep oil, gas, electricity, water and sewerage operations running.
Those in postal services and those working to provide essential financial services.
Public safety and national security
Police and support staff, Ministry of Defence civilian staff and armed forces personnel, fire and rescue staff, and workers responsible for border security, prisons and probation.
Those keeping air, water, road, and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating.
Read the full list on the Department’s website.
Can children of non-key workers still go to school?
No, they should be at home and observing social distancing. As part of the third lockdown of British life, Boris Johnson has closed schools except for the children of “key workers”.
Vulnerable children, including those with a social worker, and pupils who get special needs support will be able to stay in school.
Do both parents need to be key workers?
Children with at least one parent or carer who are identified as critical workers by the government can send their children to school if required.
Single parents who are key workers will be entitled to a school place.
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Is a dental nurse a key worker?
Some roles within the NHS, such as dental nurse, whose work is not at the frontline of treating the coronavirus may still be considered key workers.
But the Government is asking people, in extraordinary times, to do everything they can to protect as many lives as they can.
If you do not need to take your child to school because your job is not essential to public health and safety, please try to stay at home.
I’m not a key worker, but can I still use public transport?
If this lockdown is the same as the previous two, the Government will not restrict access to the transport system. However, if you are not a key worker, try to avoid travelling by public transport.
Not only does this free up space for vital workers, but you are less likely to catch and spread the virus. If you can, walk or cycle to work. If you don’t need to travel, the advice is that you shouldn’t.
Who are the UK’s Key Workers?
What should I do if I’m still unsure?
Employees should speak to their employers to check whether they should come into work if they are unsure whether they are a key worker.
Communities Secretary Robert Jendrick also provided this checklist to help workers decide if they should stay home or not:
- If you can work from home, you must do so
- If that is impossible, you can go to work
- If you are in the workplace, you should adhere to social distancing guidelines
- If that’s not possible, businesses should consider ceasing to trade
Who decides who can work from home?
People should use their common sense in deciding whether they should leave home to go to work.
During the first lockdown, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said that “the advice is crystal clear – you should stay at home” unless you had one of the key reasons to go out: exercise, shopping, for medical need or to do work that work cannot be done at home.
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What should staff do if they have to go to work?
The Government wants company managers to think of different ways to encourage staff to do their work by minimising social distancing.
She said: “We are encouraging our employers to think really carefully about how they can innovate in the way their staff are working and if they do need to be in the office just to spread people around.”
A Number 10 spokesman said: “Guidance in relation to anybody who fears that they may have symptoms or anybody in their house might have symptoms – they should remain at home. We need people to stay at home as ultimately that will save lives.”
Furthermore, during a press briefing on Jan 18, Prof Susan Hopkins expanded on how essential workers could protect themselves with lateral flow testing. She announced that MHRA has approved lateral flow tests, and 37,000 individuals have been detected through lateral flow tests over the last few weeks to help get the virus under control.
Mr Hancock also added that mass testing centres are spreading across different regions, which will enable workers whose employers do not offer mass testing to access resources.
Should staff refuse to go to work if they are worried about coronavirus?
The advice from the Government is to raise any concerns about their place of work with managers. Ms Harries said: “If people don’t feel safe in their work environment they should always raise those concerns.
“The majority of employers are being really sensible and supportive and there has been huge support for staff and the population in general.” Ms Harries said that the Government could “not individually cover every single scenario whether it is in the workplace or in the family.
If individuals can work safely they can keep a distance apart”.
Can I leave home to find a job?
The guidance is silent on whether people can leave home to look for a job. However, a Downing Street source said that people should try to look for a job online rather than head outside. The source said that employers should be “flexible wherever possible and be prepared to conduct an interview online, over the phone, or via Skype”. The key issue was to adhere to the rule to stay two metres or six feet apart.
Why are construction workers still allowed to go to work?
The Government’s position is that building sites should remain open if workers can stay six feet apart. Fresh guidance was also issued by the Construction Industry Council on Jan 5.
Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor, claimed that he was “overruled by the Prime Minister who doesn’t believe that construction workers should be at home” when he asked to close sites..