Covid-19 Firebreak in Wales: what it means for you

Published date
From 18:00 on Friday 23 October to 00:01 Monday 9 November, firebreak lockdown regulations will be introduced in Wales. No-one wants to see a return to a national lockdown, but due to rising rates of Covid infections, it has become a necessary measure.

People will have questions about how this affects them and their jobs, so we have compiled all the essential things you need to know. We also have a dedicated Covid-19 advice page on our website that can help with any other questions you may have.

The Welsh Government has implemented the following rules for the firebreak lockdown:

•    You must work from home if you can.
•    All non-food retail, hospitality businesses, close contact services, and events and tourism businesses must close.
•    Community centres, libraries and recycling centres will also be closed.
•    Face coverings must continue to be worn in indoor public spaces including public transport.
•    There is no requirement for vulnerable people to shield. The Chief Medical Officer for Wales has written a letter to those previously shielding containing the latest advice to people on how to best protect themselves, and if you haven’t already done so, you should use Welsh Government’s workplace risk assessment tool to understand your risk levels.
•    Childcare can remain open, and people can leave home to take their children to childcare.
•    Primary and special schools will re-open as normal after half term, and secondary schools will only re-open for pupils in years 7 and 8, and children deemed the most vulnerable after the half term break. Pupils taking exams will also be allowed on site. Others will be expected to continue their learning from home.

Read the answers the Welsh Government has provided to some Frequently Asked Questions for businesses in Wales

What does the firebreak mean for workers?
If you can, you should work from home during the firebreak period. Your employer should not try to stop you doing so and should make sure all arrangements are made to enable homeworking. If you feel your employer is not doing the right thing, your workplace reps can help change this.

Read our blogs about what you need to know when working from home and health and safety while working from home.
If homeworking is not possible, then you should attend your place of work. However, your employer must take all necessary measures to ensure your safety.

Read our quick guide to Covid risk assessments to see if your employer is doing the right things. 

If you feel your employer is neglecting their responsibilities, you can refuse to attend work. Find out about your rights if you’re in this situation by reading our blog on refusing work.

If you work in a sector due to be shut down, wage support is available through the UK government, although your employer will have to claim this on your behalf.

The Job Retention Scheme, originally due to conclude on 31 October, has now been extended until the end of March 2021.

The UK government has produced a factsheet following the announcement to extend the Job Retention Scheme. The factsheet also details what other support is available for the self-employed.

The launch of the new Job Support Scheme (for Closed Business Premises) has now been postponed until at least April 2021.

Under the extended Job Retention Scheme, furloughed workers receive 80% of their wages. The Treasury has also announced that if you were made redundant after 23 September, you can be re-hired and put on the extended furlough scheme. Your employer will need to apply for you to receive wage support for this scheme – they must pay you, and then the UK government will pay them back.

The rules around the scheme are complicated and if you’re worried that your employer isn’t doing the right thing or you’re not sure what you should be asking for, speak to your trade union as soon as possible. 

If you’re not in a trade union find the right one to join using our union finder tool.

Wales TUC does not believe the Job Retention Scheme provides enough security for workers, particularly those on minimum wage who cannot afford a reduction in earnings. There are also many unanswered questions about the extension, particularly in regard to workers in lockdown sectors in Wales who did not previously qualify for support.

We are calling for increased support from UK government to protect workers who are in danger of falling through the cracks of the extended scheme.

Mental health
The resurgence of Covid-19 and firebreak impacts on us all, so it is important to take steps to look after your mental health.
We have a host of resources available to help you manage the weeks ahead.

Our Coping with Covid wellbeing sessions can help you manage the impact of the new lockdown.

Earlier this year we also hosted a webinar on coping with isolation which you can watch any time. 

Trade Unions
Now, more than ever we need trade unions to help us through these uncertain times. Unions make workplaces better, safer, more inclusive, and more productive. If you are struggling or not receiving the support you need, your union can help.