Coronavirus: Working lunches become possible lockdown loophole

Kate Ng
·2-min read
A member of bar staff wearing PPE (personal protective equipment) in the form of a face mask, serves food to seated customers inside the Wetherspoon pub (AFP via Getty Images)
A member of bar staff wearing PPE (personal protective equipment) in the form of a face mask, serves food to seated customers inside the Wetherspoon pub (AFP via Getty Images)

Workers can meet for lunch indoors as long as the meal is for “work purposes”, the government has said — a potential ‘loophole’ in coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Meeting anyone not from your own household inside pubs and restaurants is not allowed under tier 2 and tier 3 restrictions, which currently apply to areas including London, York and Manchester.

Groups of six are still allowed to meet outdoors, but gatherings of larger groups is against the law. However, there is an exception; according to government guidelines, there is “no limit” to group sizes for meetings and gatherings as long as it is for work purposes.

A No10 spokesperson said that, although employees are advised to work from home as much as possible, they “are permitted to meet indoors for work purposes in high or very high areas."

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy told The Daily Telegraph that employers are encouraged to “minimise face to face meetings and use video conferencing software whenever possible."

They also said that people living in tier 2 areas should not attend restaurants or cafes with anyone outside their household. In tier 3, pubs must close unless they can operate as a restaurant and serve “substantial meals”, and only takeaways are allowed.

The managing director of London restaurant group Boisdale, Ronald Macdonald, told City AM last week that he had written to Westminster Council, calling for business lunches to be exempted from the tier 2 rules that ban households from mixing indoors.

According to the newspaper, it is understood that the government will allow business lunches to take place in hospitality venues. However, they must be strictly for business purposes and not to meet work colleagues socially - although it is unclear how this would be enforced.

The hospitality industry is calling on the government to make things clearer, as the loophole could mean a boost to business for venues that rely on lunchtime trade.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of industry trade body UKHospitality, said: “We’re asking for urgent clarification because in central London, if the working lunch is gone, there’s no trade.”

The organisation warned on Monday that the hospitality and pub industry faces the loss of 750,000 jobs without further support from the government.

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