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COVID-19: Guidance on Critical Workers

COVID-19: Guidance on Critical Workers

Overview

The Government has published its list of "key workers" whose work is considered critical to the COVID-19 response.  The guidance is directed at schools, childcare providers, colleges and local authorities in England, and is intended to provide clarity, following the widespread closure of schools, as to which workers are considered sufficiently "key" for their children to be afforded continued care at school.  The list also provides clarity on which children are considered "vulnerable" and therefore also able to continue to attend school.  

The list does not identify specific roles but rather covers a range of sectors, including:

  • Health and social care
  • Education and childcare
  • Key public services
  • Local and national government
  • Food and other necessary goods
  • Public safety and national security
  • Transport
  • Utilities, communication and financial services

Helpfully, given recent "panic buying", workers within the "food and other necessary goods" sector include those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery.  Additionally, for these purposes, "necessary goods" expressly include hygiene-related products.

Financial services staff are also considered key, including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure, as are workers within the information technology and data infrastructure sector.

The categories described are wide and there are likely to be roles which are tangential or indirectly related to the key service provision, and where it may be unclear if a particular worker can properly be said to be "critical" to the COVID-19 response.  However, the Government has directed workers to clarify the position with their employers, who can confirm whether their role is necessary for business continuity purposes in the context of the relevant key service. 

The FCA has also since issued guidance for financial services employers to assist them with identifying both their essential services and the workers within those services who might be considered critical.

We understand schools are having to make decisions about who is a key worker, although evidence from the employer will be helpful.  However, schools are concerned that the guidance is not sufficiently clear and may be open to abuse, and have emphasised that sending children to school should only be a last resort if there is no alternative. 

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