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COVID-19 and telco working practices – clarifications on the PM's statement

We are circulating the following information from DCMS to assist INCA members and other organisations in the sector in respect of the current guidance from Government:

The DCMS telecoms COVID hub has received several queries about the PM's statement. We have managed to get a few clarifications from Cabinet Office on a few points, which are set out below. 

  1. Closure of phone shops - we have clarified that phone shops should close to the general public from today, as "electronic goods" shops are to be closed.
  2. Possibility of key workers going to use the space in these retail premises for the purposes of providing essential customer support services (as long as the shops remain closed to the public and social distancing measures can be maintained for the employees). We confirmed that this is possible, though of course it would be better for such employees to work from home.
  3. Can network maintenance/repair crews and network rollout crews still operate on the same site if there are more than 2 workers? Answer is: yes though they should also try to stay 2m away from each other wherever practical. Cabinet Office will publish guidance on how such crews can prove they are key workers if the police are trying to disperse them as "gatherings" – a sensible and relatively rapid step to avoid problems with this would be for such workers to carry a note on headed notepaper confirming that they are telecoms key workers and that more than 2 of them are required on site to do the job.
  4. For now, if you have designated workers as key workers (remember our guidance was deliberately broad and included call centre staff) then they may continue to come to work if there is no other alternative (i.e. can’t work from home). Obviously as responsible employers you should further endeavour to make sure the places they are working in can conform to social distancing advice (the 2 metre spacing).
  5. For engineers who have been designated as key workers, they may go to people’s homes but obviously there is no guarantee the residents will allow them in. We would recommend that whatever workarounds you can agree on a x industry basis to avoid engineers having to enter people’s premises but still maintain connectivity to them are used – even if it’s passing cable via a window in some cases.

Of course it also goes without saying that INCA is here to help, so don't hesitate to get in touch. We'll be keeping in touch via email and using online meeting and conferencing with Zoom to support our members and the sector as a whole.