With Freedom Day set to go ahead next Monday, businesses across England are preparing to wave farewell to most mandatory coronavirus restrictions.
But the Prime Minister’s cautious approach means the legal end to rules such as face masks and social distancing does not mean an immediate return to normality.
For Britons are still expected to be asked by firms to wear masks in many walks of life such as while shopping in supermarkets and travelling on public transport.
And venues such as nightclubs are being urged to require ‘Covid certification’ as a condition of entry, although some have already said they will not do this.
The movement towards businesses deciding what is best for them will lead to a very different approach to the blanket rules the country has become used to.
And Sage member Professor Graham Medley said mask-wearing ‘probably won’t do any good’ when the Government ends the legal requirement for the protection.
Here, MailOnline looks at what life will look like in England from next Monday:
LAW: All laws mandating the wearing of masks will be scrapped
ADVICE: The Prime Minister said people should continue to wear masks in confined spaces where they might meet people they would not ordinarily meet. Guidance published last night said: ‘Government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport.’
LAW: The two-metre rule is officially being lifted on 19 July, as well as the rule of six which restricts how many can gather together
ADVICE: In fact, people are now being strongly advised to ‘minimise the number, proximity and duration of social contacts’. Chris Whitty even suggested that people should avoid ‘unnecessary meetings’ – and said everyone should continue to abide by ‘hands, face, space’.
Sainsbury’s – The chain told MailOnline it is ‘working through the details of the government’s announcement on the easing of restrictions and will keep our customers and colleagues updated’.
Morrisons – The supermarket is believed to be waiting for the Government’s plan and workplace guidance to be published, which will then reviewed in line with its own policies before any decision is made.
Asda – The supermarket said on Twitter today that ‘as per government guidance we will encourage shoppers to wear a mask, however this will be down to the individual as to whether or not they wish to wear a mask when shopping in store’.
Co-op – The chain is yet to make a decision on masks, with a spokesman telling MailOnline it is ‘reviewing our policy in light of the new Government announcement’.
Iceland – An Iceland spokesman told MailOnline today that it was ‘currently reviewing our policies in line with the latest updates from the Government on the easing of restrictions, and will continue to do so as further updates are provided’. It added: ‘The safety of our customers and colleagues will continue to be our priority as restrictions are eased and we will update on any changes as we are able to do so.’
Waitrose – The supermarket told MailOnline that bosses are ‘awaiting Government guidance and we will work through that when we have it’.
Tesco – Not yet responded.
Aldi – Not yet responded.
Lidl – Not yet responded.
Marks & Spencer – Not yet responded.
RESTAURANTS AND CAFES
Nandos – The chain told MailOnline that masks ‘will be worn at the discretion of staff and customers’ and hand sanitiser ‘will remain on offer at every restaurant’. It said the rule of six will no longer apply ‘so larger tables will be allowed’ and it will start accepting walk-ups again, but till safety screens and enhanced cleaning will remain.
Mitchells & Butlers – A spokesman told MailOnline that it looks forward to ‘trading again without restrictions and at full capacity, allowing our business to continue its recovery from the devastating impacts of the pandemic.’ He added: ‘As we progress to trading without legal restrictions guest and team member safety will remain our top priority. We will confirm what our policies will be from July 19 in due course.’
McDonalds – The chain told MailOnline it was not yet able to share any updates.
KFC – Not yet responded.
Burger King – Not yet responded.
Pizza Express – Not yet responded.
Costa – Not yet responded.
Caffe Nero – Not yet responded.
Starbucks – Not yet responded.
Pret – Not yet responded.
Wagamama – Not yet responded.
Star Pubs – Bosses are waiting on the detailed government workplace guidance which is expected later today, and it will then be up to staff and customers to make their own decisions on face masks and socially distancing. Most of Star Pubs are leased and tenanted, which means it will effectively be up to each pub to decide.
Youngs – The chain told MailOnline today: ‘We will no longer ask staff or customers to wear masks. We will leave it to them to decide for themselves to or not to wear masks. We will be lifting social distancing in pubs and operating in line with all the latest government guidance.’ The pubs will also maintain additional cleaning protocols and other measures such as increased ventilation, with windows and doors open ‘at every opportunity’.
Wetherspoon – Not yet responded.
Greene King – Not yet responded.
Fullers – Not yet responded.
City Pubs – Not yet responded.
Stonegate – Not yet responded.
Trains – The Rail Delivery Group, which represents UK train operators, such as Avanti West Coast, TransPennine Express and Southeastern, told MailOnline today that rail companies ‘will ask people to follow the government guidance and, out of respect for others, wear face coverings if an indoor setting is busy’. A spokesman added that train travel is ‘low risk, with the majority of carriages well ventilated by air conditioning systems or by doors and windows’. She added that as restrictions lift, they will continue carrying out extra cleaning and providing better information about how busy services are, so that ‘passengers can travel with confidence’.
Buses and coaches – The Confederation of Passenger Transport, which represents the bus and coach industry including National Express and Megabus, has called for clearer regulations from the Government but said in the absence of that, passengers’ choices will be respected. A spokesman told MailOnline: ‘We expect that many people, especially in busy places, will follow the Prime Minister’s call to continue to wear a face covering as a courtesy to others.’ But they added that passengers ‘will find it difficult to understand why the Prime Minister has singled out public transport as somewhere to wear a face covering when a range of other activities share its characteristics’. A spokesman continued: ‘We now need to see clear guidance for operators and customers but, in the absence of regulations, it is important that we respect everyone’s right to choose whether to wear a face covering. The industry is doing everything it can to ensure people can travel with confidence. Operators will continue to deliver enhanced cleaning regimes, ensure buses are well ventilated and provide tools such as apps to allow customers to see how busy their bus is and help plan their journey in advance.’
National Express – A spokesman told MailOnline: ‘We are all responsible for keeping each other safe. We are advising customers to follow the guidance for the relevant country they are travelling in. We will ask them to continue to be considerate of others and respect their personal choices.’
Transport for London – No decision announced yet for mask wearing on the Overground, Underground or bus services in London. TfL has not responded. Mayor Sadiq Khan has been considering a bid to force passengers to keep wearing masks.
Free Now – A spokesman for the car ride-hailing app told MailOnline: ‘We are working with regulators to understand if there will still be industry-wide requirements on mask-wearing from Jul 19. Whilst we await this, we will recommend face masks to customers and drivers but give them both the choice on what to do, leaving them with the freedom to agree what is comfortable for them during a ride.’
Foreign travel – Cross-Channel train firm Eurostar and airlines such as British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair will continue to require passengers to wear face coverings from July 19.
Uber – Not yet responded.
Ola – Not yet responded.
Bolt – Not yet responded.
Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association – Not yet responded.
National Hair & Beauty Federation – Richard Lambert, chief executive of the NHBF, told MailOnline that the industry group supports the Government over it making the wearing of face masks will be recommended but not mandatory, for close contact services where a mask does not get in the way of the service being delivered. But he added: ‘Everyone will still need to think about how to reduce the risk to themselves and to others. If salons or individual hair and beauty professionals prefer for clients to keep their masks on for some or all of their treatments, it’s important that that they make this clear before their appointment to avoid any awkwardness. This could be through a notice on the website or social media, as well as telling them directly when they book.’
Toni & Guy – Not yet responded.
Rush Hair – Not yet responded.
HOLIDAYS AND HOTELS
Centre Parcs – Center Parcs chief executive Martin Dalby said today that staff and guests will be encouraged to wear masks at his resorts because public health is ‘absolutely our number one priority’. However, he also told Radio 4’s Today programme that he will not be ‘policing’ the advice, and no one will have to present vaccine passports. Mr Dalby added: ‘We’re not going to open up everything from next Monday, it’s going to be gradual and we will keep it under constant review. The health and safety of both our employees and our guests is absolutely our number one priority. So there will still be limited numbers of activities, limited numbers in terms of restaurants and cafes, and we will take a gradual approach to this.’
Radisson – The hotel chain said ‘local regulations’ will be followed on measures such as wearing face masks, with a spokesman telling MailOnline: ‘Specifically for the UK this means that, in accordance with the guidelines issued by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday July 12, Radisson Hotel Group will continue to recommend face masks for its employees in indoor situations.’
Haven Holidays – Haven told MailOnline that for the first time since March 2020, seated indoor facilities in food and beverage and entertainment venues and swimming pools will be back at full capacity. A spokesman added: ‘In line with the new government guidelines measures around social distancing will be removed and the wearing of face coverings will be optional.’ Guests will still need to pre book swim slots and access to entertainment venues and restaurants, although there will be options for guests to book while on the park if capacity levels allow. Test and Trace will still be in place, but guests will not be obliged to check into venues.
Butlin’s – The holiday resorts group said that from next Monday, ‘guests can wear face coverings if they feel more comfortable doing so, but they are no longer a legal requirement’. It added: ‘Our team will be wearing face coverings in certain venues.’ A spokesman also told MailOnline: ‘We’re continuing to ask guests to pre-book shows in our larger venues where we have added capacity, so there’s no need to queue.’
Hilton – Not yet responded.
Marriott – Not yet responded.
Travelodge – Not yet responded.
Premier Inn – Not yet responded.
Holiday Inn – Not yet responded.
Novotel – Not yet responded.
Crowne Plaza – Not yet responded.
Ibis – Not yet responded.
Best Western – Not yet responded.
Mercure – Not yet responded.
WORKING FROM HOME
LAW: The long-standing government ‘work from home’ order is being officially scrapped.
ADVICE: The PM urged people not to rush back to the office, saying he did not expect the whole country to return on Monday. The guidance states: ‘Whilst government is no longer instructing people to work from home if they can, government would expect and recommend a gradual return over the summer.’
NatWest – The bank told MailOnline it will ‘be inviting a small number of colleagues in England to return to the office’ from next Monday, and will ‘encourage colleagues in England to continue wearing masks in our buildings and branches’. It will also ‘maintain social distancing measures in our buildings and branches for colleagues at this time’. A NatWest Group spokesman said: ‘Our current plan is to start to implement a phased return to the workplace, with our priority workers returning from 19 July, and to adapt to our new ways of working over the summer, with the majority of UK staff expected to be back in the office in September. This is dependent on government and public health advice, across the different jurisdictions in which we operate which we will continue to monitor closely.’ The bank’s ‘priority workers’ are defined as ‘those who are key workers, in regulated roles, where there is a client need, and people who need to work in the office for wellbeing reasons’. It added: ‘Under our new ways of working framework, we expect around 87 per cent of our colleagues to adopt a hybrid working pattern.’
Could staff sue a firm if they say they caught Covid-19 while at work because people weren’t wearing face masks?
Legal experts today played down concerns that the new policy in England on face masks from next Monday could leave companies open to being sued by customers or staff if employees don’t wear masks – or even a situation where staff sue customers.
There had been concerns that a switch from face masks being the law to guidance from Freedom Day could lead to a staff member possibly suing their firm if they could prove they caught Covid-19 while at work because people were not wearing masks.
But experts pointed out that the shift in Government guidance means that it would be very unlikely for anyone to succeed in a civil claim that a company was breaching its duty of care to staff or any Health and Safety regulations.
Claire Brook, employment law partner at legal firm Aaron and Partners in Chester, told MailOnline: ‘An employee is entitled to expect a safe place of work from its employer, but given the change in the government guidance, and on the assumption that we’re talking about settings where face masks aren’t required anyway pre-Covid, I don’t consider that would have particular ground, unless they could establish a particular causation.
‘An employer cannot avoid every single risk, so it is required to provide a safe place of work but insofar as it is reasonable to identify and manage those risks.
‘Every employer has to look at ways to avoid risks where possible and appropriate – and where the government has decided it’s no longer necessary to impose it, it gives them that defence.’
Her colleague Layla Barke-Jones, a litigation lawyer and expert in health and safety law at the same firm, also told MailOnline: ‘Going forward, giving that its discretionary and that’s well publicised, I think it would be hard to get off the ground to say there’s a breach of duty in saying not everyone has to wear a mask.
‘I think your expectation will that it may and may not be followed. I think if I was in a shop and wanted to go to the extreme, I could put up a sign to say “some of our staff will not be wearing a mask”.’
She added: ‘I think it would be too much to expect employers to enforce something that the government says is not mandatory.
‘If we look at Health and Safety law, you have to have a foreseeable risk and take steps against this, but the Government don’t think this is a step necessary to avoid this risk.
‘I think there will be some firms that may try these sort of claims – but even if they were to try to show there was a breach of duty, they would have to show the cause of Covid came from that person in that shop without a mask.
‘Following government guidance is pretty fundamental, and if the government guidance changes and says mask wearing is not mandatory, I think you’d be really hard pushed to say in a civil court that it should be mandatory, unless you’ve got real vulnerability such as in a care home setting. In a retail shop, I don’t see that would get off the ground in a civil court.
‘What will really muddy the waters is if we have Scotland and Wales saying you have to wear them on public transport. Then as an employer you have a bit more of a head-scratcher, where it’s inconsistent across the UK.’
London Stock Exchange – The LSE said it is not implementing any changes to its Covid-19 guidance from next Monday, although it does expect more people to return to its UK offices from September.
Amazon – Amazon is not implementing any changes to its working guidance from next Monday, although it does have return to office guidance for corporate employees which is set to come in from September. This states that its new baseline will be three days a week in the office, leaving flexibility to work remotely up to two days a week. Separately, corporate employees will have the choice to work up to four weeks per year fully remote from a domestic location, without the expectation that they will commute into an office during that time.
Vodafone – A Vodafone spokesman told MailOnline that the company intends to welcome its UK office-based teams back from September. She added: We will be taking a flexible approach, with a combination of home-working and time together in offices. We aim to work in a way which offers the best of both virtual and office-based working. The extent of virtual working will vary by role, and our offices will evolve to become places where we can come together when needed for connection, collaboration and creation. Our priority, of course, is to keep everyone safe, and we’ll adapt our plans if we need to as circumstances change.’
Goldman Sachs – The company has not sent any new communication to staff since a memo at the start of May, in which the company said 60 per cent of its London staff had been into the office at least once in the previous month. Its offices at Plumtree Court have been open throughout the pandemic and since the lockdown has been lifted, it has seen a gradual uptick in numbers of staff returning. Now, the company is at roughly 40 to 45 per cent staff back in its London office, which works out at about 2,300 employees. It has also asked staff for their vaccination status.
British American Tobacco – A BAT spokesman told MailOnline: ‘Our number one priority continues to be to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our employees and we are following UK Government workplace guidelines. Once the Health and Safety Executive has released its updated COVID secure workplace guidance, we will take some time to understand what is needed to ensure a safe return to site.’
Aviva – The insurance company told MailOnline that they ‘look forward to welcoming our colleagues back into our offices’, adding: ‘We expect to see more of our people returning and will encourage them to remain aware of what they can do to reduce the risk of the virus spreading. Our focus continues to be on the safety and wellbeing of our people, customers and communities.’ The company also said that the ‘vast majority of people at Aviva want to work flexibly in future’. It continued: ‘Our people need to work in ways that deliver the best outcomes for our business and our customers. That will involve some time in an office for most people, for example for team meetings and when work benefits from face-to-face collaboration. This will vary by role and we’re supporting leaders to help their teams navigate this transition to smart working. We’re reshaping our office space to reflect this, with more areas for breakouts and collaboration and less space dedicated to rows of desks.’
Santander – The bank has decided that its current working from home arrangements for non-branch roles will not change before September 6, but added: ‘There will be more opportunities for colleagues to work from an office as restrictions are eased across the UK.’ It is planning for a phased return in two months’ time and will be maintaining safety measures such as hand sanitiser and temperature scanning.
Nationwide – The building society said that throughout the pandemic, it has kept its offices open for those that needed to come in. A spokesman told MailOnline: ‘N ow that the message from the government has changed, we will slowly open more space and continue to monitor the guidelines. Back in March we announced our Work Anywhere approach that gives colleagues the flexibility to work in a way that’s best for them. We know that just 6 per cent of colleagues want to work in an office full time and we’ll continue to embrace this new way of working to ensure it works for both Nationwide and our colleagues.’ The company added that it will ‘monitor and review colleague feedback, office capacity and the guidance ensuring that people are given enough space and are able to respect peoples choices and ensure colleagues feel comfortable’. The spokesman also said: ‘Colleagues in our offices can wear face coverings if they choose to.’
HSBC – Not yet responded.
Barclays – Not yet responded.
Lloyds – Not yet responded.
Standard Chartered – Not yet responded.
Facebook – Not yet responded.
Google – Not yet responded.
Apple – Not yet responded.
Unilever – Not yet responded.
Associated British Foods – Not yet responded.
GlaxoSmithKline – Not yet responded.
Reckitt Benckiser Group – Not yet responded.
Diageo – Not yet responded.
BT – Not yet responded.
O2 – Not yet responded.
EE – Not yet responded.
IAG – Not yet responded.
PWC – Not yet responded.
LAW: The public had been told that Covid status certification would not be needed over the summer, but that they could be introduced over the autumn and winter
ADVICE: Owners of busy indoor venues such as nightclubs and busy city-centre bars have been told to consider bringing in the passports. The government will ‘encourage’ businesses and large events to use the NHS Covid Pass in ‘high risk settings’ – that is, where people are likely to be in ‘close proximity to others outside their household’. Few details have been given, but the guidance could cover theatres, cinemas, indoor concerts and exhibitions. The government many consider mandating certification in certain venues at a later date.
Night Time Industries Association – Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said the decision to go ahead with the reopening was ‘the correct one’, adding that the Government were ‘right not to mandate the use of Covid status certification systems’. He continued: ‘Much of the night-time economy relies on spontaneous consumers and by permitting businesses to opt out the Government have allowed for this trade to continue.’
Proud – Alex Proud, owner of Proud nightclubs, said the plan for Covid passports was ‘deeply worrying and frustrating because it’s discriminatory against younger people who are less likely to have been able to have the vaccinations.’ He told the BBC: ‘We emphasise that we’ve invested in sanitation and we feel these measures are adequate rather than overly authoritarian Covid passports.’
Pryzm, Bar&Beyond, Eden and Fiction – Peter Marks, chief executive of Rekom UK, which owns 42 nightclubs including chains Pryzm, Bar&Beyond, Eden and Fiction, said he was ‘thrilled’ to be able to reopen next Monday ‘at full capacity and without any requirement for a negative Covid test, something we believe would create a barrier to both customer enjoyment and getting the industry back on its feet’. He said reopened nightclubs will operate as pubs are currently running.
Music festivals – Paul Reed, chief executive of the Association of Independent Festivals, said the body was working with the relevant Government departments on the publication of guidance to ensure that festivals can reopen safely this summer. He added: ‘Organisers and local authorities alike can have confidence in their decision making and measures introduced – including Covid certification where considered appropriate. Ensuring the safety of audiences and risk mitigation has always been central to what festival organisers do each year and it will continue to be more so than ever as we begin to emerge from the pandemic.’
Live music events – Greg Parmley, chief executive of music industry trade body Live, said the live music industry had been ‘devastated’ by the pandemic, losing over 85 per cent of its income in 2020. He added: ‘We are delighted to finally start to reopen on July 19. Being able to reopen safely has always been extremely important to us, which is why the industry has participated in and paid for, a number of Government pilot events. We are experts at managing risk and know that as restrictions ease, public health needs could also change at varying rates across the country. We were supportive of mandatory Covid certification for large events to allow us to reopen and now expect those large events, where organisers feel it is necessary, to move forward with certification to build customer confidence.’ He also said that the industry needs a ‘Government-backed insurance scheme to provide us with financial security’ amid uncertainty over whether any restrictions will have to return.
Source: Daily Mail UK