Implications of the roadmap

18 April 2021

Danny Done, managing director at Portfolio Payroll, outlines the details and effects on employment

Prime minister Boris Johnson has set out his roadmap for lifting England’s current lockdown, in place since 5 January 2021, balancing continued caution with the need to restore freedoms and boost the economy. Scotland and Wales have their own roadmaps but all three follow the same notion of focusing on data and not dates.

Each step of England’s roadmap is at least five weeks apart – four weeks for collection and analysis of data and one week’s notice of any changes. Therefore, the last two steps still pending are all subject to delay if evidence shows that new problems have arisen. The following tests will be considered between each stage:

the continued success of vaccine rollout

hospital admissions and deaths continue to fall

pressure on the National Health Service does not reach unacceptable levels, and

the impact of any new/existing variants of the virus.

...crucial that employers not only plan for the future...

The roadmap in a nutshell

Step one – The first stage of the roadmap happened on 8 March 2021. Pupils in all schools and further education settings have been allowed to return to face-to-face teaching with breakfast and after school clubs also reopening together with sporting activities for children. Tennis, basketball, and outdoor pools have been able to resume since 29 March 2021. The requirement for people to work from home remained even though it was no longer a legal requirement to stay at home.

Step two – From 12 April 2021, hairdressers, nail salons, non-essential retail, gyms, and libraries have re-opened and holidays can be taken. Pubs and restaurant have also re-opened for outdoor service with no curfew and no requirement for alcohol to accompany a substantial meal.

Step three – No earlier than 17 May 2021, pubs and restaurants can resume serving indoors. Theatres, cinemas and concert halls will also reopen, as will some sports stadia (up to 10,000 people or a quarter of the stadium’s capacity, whichever is the lowest).

Step four – Finally, and no earlier than 21 June 2021, the last set of restrictions will be lifted including on nightclubs.

This roadmap is good news for employers as they will now have some direction for the future of their business and how soon they may be able to return to some form of normality; however, this is dependent on how the pandemic progresses. Looking especially at step four, it is crucial that employers not only plan for the future with 21 June 2021 in mind but also that they have consideration for the possibility that this date may be extended.


As well as the above measures, the government will be carrying out a series of reviews to explore further ways of easing limits. Most importantly for employers, one of these reviews will consider how long we need to maintain social distancing and face coverings, as well as informing guidance on working from home.

Government guidance on homeworking so far remains the same as it has been since the start of the current lockdown in England, meaning employers will need to continue to find alternative ways of managing their business needs. The advice for employees to work from home where possible is expected to remain until at least 21 June 2021. Employers will need to keep up to date with government guidance to better-inform their decisions on how quickly they can bring their staff back to the office.


The furlough scheme

The job retention (furlough) scheme was originally established in March 2020 to assist organisations with retaining staff through business restrictions put in place as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, it has been extended numerous times in response to the developing situation with the virus. Employers are minded that the scheme has been extended until 30 September 2021.

As it has been for some months, furloughed workers still get 80% of their wages for the time in which they do not work, subject to a monthly maximum of £2,500. However, the government will start reducing their contribution to the scheme, similar to the way it was phased out last year. From July 2021, the government will contribute 70% of wages for unworked hours, with employers asked to provide the remaining 10% so that employees still receive 80% of their wages. In August and September 2021, government contributions will decrease once more to 60%, meaning employers must provide 20% of wages.

This news means that the furlough scheme will remain an option for eligible employers even after the lifting of all lockdown restrictions in England. Presumably, this is to assist employers in gradually working towards pre-pandemic normality whilst also allowing for any delays to England’s roadmap out of lockdown that may occur if the government’s tests for easing restrictions are not passed. 



Featured in the May 2021 issue of Professional in Payroll, Pensions and Reward. Correct at time of publication.