Following the Prime Ministerial statement last night, not everyone is clear on what to do next. Especially the British Chambers of Commerce, of which the Somerset Chamber is a member. At the heart of the confusion are two statements:
“We now need to stress that anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work.”
“You should avoid public transport if at all possible – because we must and will maintain social distancing, and capacity will therefore be limited.”
This begs a number of questions. Not least how to get to work if you don’t own a car (car sharing is clearly a non starter). And how to manage social distancing in an enclosed work environment such as a manufacturing business. More to the point how to do this without compromising health and safety. This is not to say it would be impossible.
The British Chambers of Commerce have issued a statement asking for clarification. Director General Adam Marshall said: “Businesses share the Prime Minister’s ambition to see more people return safely to work over the coming weeks. Companies will do everything they can to protect employees and customers, maintain social distancing and operate successfully as more sections of the economy are permitted to re-open. Businesses will need to see detailed plans for the phased easing of restrictions, coordinated with all nations across the UK and supported by clear guidance. It is imperative that companies have detailed advice on what will need to change in the workplace, including clarity on the use of PPE. Firms will also need to know that government support schemes, which have helped save millions of jobs in recent weeks, will continue for as long as they are needed so that they can plan ahead with confidence.“
The issue of PPE is concerning. At present there is still some difficulty in getting PPE to all care home staff who need it. Under those circumstances, it does not seem likely that sufficient PPE can be obtained to protect people in the workplace.
The intent may be good, but the lack of detail and answers to some basic questions is more concerning.