As we know, the country is now in lockdown. But what does this mean in practical terms?

There has been some confusion regarding what this means as it appears we are in a partial rather than full lockdown, particularly as people are still permitted to exercise once a day outside. Boris Johnson stated in his press conference that "Travelling to and from work [is permitted], but only where it is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home.".

The government subsequently published a document with guidance which can be found here.

This suggests that the work itself may not need to be 'necessary', merely that it would be impossible to carry out that work from home.

There was then a conflicting Tweet from the government which said: "The only reasons you may leave home [are]: ... to go to work (if you're a key worker)" which apparently contradicted the official government guidance. No wonder people were confused, and the Twittersphere was in a tailspin.

Clarification on Twitter came from Andy Burnham, who tweeted that he had "…now spoken to No10 & had it confirmed that people CAN leave home to work - as long as they fully observe the 2m distancing rule. Seems to me to be in conflict with the big #StayAtHome message. But that’s the official policy. Over & out!".

If this is correct, this follows the official released guidance, rather than the government Tweet. Essentially, people are able to go to work if there is no other option, at the moment, they don’t have to be classified as key workers. This may, of course, still be subject to change. The message – don’t trust Twitter entirely (!) if you were tempted to do so.

New legislation is coming out all the time and we are sure to have clarification soon, but the overwhelming message has to be – if your employees can possibly work from home, this should happen. Don’t worry about setting precedents for the future, something which we have been asked about. We are in unprecedented times and, as the PM made clear last night in his press conference, this is a national emergency. 


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Author: Arwen Makin

Senior Solicitor, ESP Law Ltd

After studying law at Cambridge University, Arwen trained at leading national law firm Mills & Reeve, qualifying into their employment team in 2002. Arwen has extensive employment law experience, having advised both employers and employees on a wide range of employment issues. Prior to joining ESP she previously worked for a number of years providing advice and representation to both trade unions and their members, and has a particular expertise in the education sector. Due to her diverse experience she is ideally placed to give advice in relation to professional conduct and regulatory matters.