On 4 January 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a third national lockdown in England. The regulations allow the lockdown to continue until 31 March 2021, although the restrictions are expected to be reviewed in mid-February to allow for the possible reopening of schools. All of the United Kingdom is now under strict measures to curb the spread of the new fast-spreading COVID-19 variant—with Wales, Northern Ireland and most of Scotland also in lockdown (although these countries are governed by separate rules).
The news that several COVID-19 vaccines have been developed—and one approved for widespread use in the United Kingdom (Pfizer-BioNTech)—has come as a relief to many. Such news has prompted consideration of the legitimacy of compulsory vaccination in the United Kingdom, particularly in an employment context.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in a press conference on 31 October 2020, that new national lockdown restrictions would apply in England from 12:01 a.m. on 5 November 2020, until at least 2 December 2020.
On 9 October 2020, the UK government announced an extension to the Job Support Scheme (JSS) for businesses that are legally required to close on account of coronavirus restrictions. This measure will sit alongside the original JSS and the Job Retention Bonus, replacing the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), which will end on 31 October 2020.
As part of its Plan for Jobs 2020, the UK Government announced in July 2020 that it would pay a bonus to employers that brought furloughed employees back to work and kept such employees continuously employed until 31 January 2021. Further guidance has now been published, in addition to a Treasury Direction, which states that the Job Retention Bonus is intended to “enhance and consolidate” the purpose of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), which is to preserve the jobs of furloughed employees.