Joanne Tandy is scared she may lose a job she loves because of a lack of warning about the government’s return-to-work plan.
After some confusion on Monday, the government clarified that step one of its new coronavirus programme would start on Wednesday, 13 May.
It said people who cannot work from home should travel to their job if the workplace is open.
It added that workplaces should follow new “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines.
But for the Tandy family, the news has caused huge problems.
Mrs Tandy is assistant manager at a Kent golf club which, under the new government guidance on exercise, is due to reopen on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, husband Richard Tandy is likely to return to his work in a local chemical factory on the same day.
But with schools remaining shut, that leaves the couple – who have both been furloughed until now – with a childcare nightmare.
“What do we do with our seven-year-old? Do I tell my boss I can’t work when I know they need me and will expect me to work?” said Mrs Tandy.
She said she knew that golf would be one of the first sports to return “but the indications we were given were that we’d be given more notice than this”.
“There simply hasn’t been enough consideration of working parents. The stress of childcare in this situation is astonishing.”
Mrs Tandy said: “The harsh reality is that I could be forced to lose a job I love because I need to look after my daughter.”
‘A very real risk’
Self-employed electrician Adrian Hoskins of Evesham in Worcestershire is not happy about being encouraged to return to work, mainly because of safety issues.
“The government claims that it’s now safe to work on new build or empty house rewires.” But he said there has not been enough clarity around carrying out this kind of work.
“Most of my jobs are domestic which if I started working normally, I’d be visiting four or five different houses a day. I worry that I could pick up Covid and pass it on unknowingly,” he said.
Mr Hoskins’ view is backed up by the chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders who warned that people who work inside people’s homes are at greater risk that those who work outside.
“The virus remains a very real risk that needs to be effectively managed,” said Brian Berry.
He said more detail is needed about the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure that all workers that need it can get it.
“The government workplace guidance needs to address this issue as soon as possible because builders who work inside people’s homes face a more tricky situation than those who work outside.”
Maintaining safe social distancing remains a problem for many workers returning to work, warned Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association.
He told BBC Breakfast: “As regards people getting back to work – millions of workers in construction and manufacturing – there’s no information of how, practically, we will be able to ensure social distancing.”
Luxury carmaker Bentley returned to production Monday – but with only around half its normal workforce on site.
Bentley’s chief executive Adrian Hallmark said a quarter of its workers have been furloughed while another quarter will remain working at home.
But he said of the lockdown rules were relaxed, they could return to full production.
“If the social distancing requirement was one metre instead of two, we could pretty much safely continue working as we did before,” he said.
Working under lockdown, Mr Hallmark said: “We’ve slowed down the rate of our production to half the rate we normally would.
“That means we’ve been able to spread out the cars and the work and ensure two metre distancing in every step along the way.”
He said that rest areas have been named for specific people, and with screens so that anyone sitting down to eat remains separated from everyone around.
“There’s cleaning equipment everywhere and we’ve also insisted that everyone wears face masks as another precaution,” he said.
Many manufacturers have been working throughout the lockdown, according to the manufacturer’s association Make UK.
Its most recent survey showed that 87% of manufacturers said they were operating in some form during lockdown, albeit taking account of social-distancing rules.
“It’s a bit of a misnomer that our sector has been shut down through this even though we were one of those singled out by the PM yesterday,” a spokesman from the association said.
But in other sectors, such as transport, things have changed.
In the capital, London’s Transport Commissioner Mike Brown warned: “We will not be returning to the transport network that existed before the virus.”
“Our intention is to progressively build up service levels to as close to pre-pandemic levels as possible, but it is clear life simply won’t be swiftly returning to what it was before.”
He asked travellers to “Please use facial coverings for any travel on public transport or if using taxi and private hire services.”
“We need the help of all Londoners in this next period,” he added.
The government said it “is working with public transport providers to bring services back towards pre-Covid-19 levels as quickly as possible.”