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I live in the UK and current COVID restrictions have relaxed so that you can meet people indoors at restaurants/bars etc. The Government rule is that its should be no more than 6 people at a table, or any number of people if only from 2 households. This has meant that we were hoping to have social nights or lunch time meals again.

However we had a health and safety update sent round recently that stated (paraphrased, not direct quote) .

If meeting with other members of staff indoors, then you must follow the office procedures and maintain social distancing.

The must is stressed in this update. The social distance in question would mean that each person would have to sit in a table by themselves.

Edit--------------------

In reference to Flater's answer I would like to include 2 lines from the policy. This shows the policy is intended to apply outside of working hours"

If you interact with an other employee in an indoor enviroment (for example during breaks or after work) you should follow......

You should follow the social distancing if you enter a restaurant, cafe etc.

There is a section addressing things like living together for spouces/house shares etc.

End of Edit---------------------------

My question is can my work enforce this health and safety rule on employees outside of the workplace and working hours? I am friends with my work colleagues to the the level where I would socialize outside of "Work Functions" and were looking forward to re-starting our weekly pub lunch, but this has put a stop on this for the time being.

Kind regards

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  • it is a shame vaccination is going so slowly in the UK. this is an interesting question that would surely depend on the law current in the UK?
    – Fattie
    May 19 at 13:41
  • I would imagine this would only apply if you are meeting somewhere outside the office but for work purposes.
    – JMERICKS
    May 19 at 16:04
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    Even with the edit, I am not convinced that this means anytime you meet someone who happens to be another employee. "Team happy hour" and "My bestie who happens to work here and we are going to the pub" are two different things.
    – Damila
    May 19 at 16:38
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    @CaptainEmacs , hmm, you're right. Thanks for the pointer. The USA and Chile are still crushing everyone on a percentage basis, but the UK has shot up nicely in the last few weeks. cnn.com/interactive/2021/health/global-covid-vaccinations (it's infuriating they don't have a selector to remove tiny countries)
    – Fattie
    May 19 at 19:34
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    there's another one @CaptainEmacs (scroll down to "gray bar chart") usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/… they thankfully omitted some micro-countries
    – Fattie
    May 19 at 19:36
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My question is can my work enforce this health and safety rule on employees outside of the workplace and working hours?

They're not trying to do that.

If meeting with other members of staff indoors, then you must follow the office procedures and maintain social distancing.

As a clear example, do you think this message is also intended to apply to a husband and wife in their own home, when they both work for the same company?

This message is talking about work occasions. Unless explicitly specified, this does not include any personal occasions during personal time between people who just happen to work at the same company.

As far as the above message is concerned, "members of staff" only applies to people when that person is working or otherwise on company premises.


Just to be clear, this interpretation is contextual. "Members of staff" does not always mean "during work time".

E.g. a rule that stipulates "no fraternizing among members of staff" is intended to be interpreted beyond the boundaries of work time. Whether that is legally enforceable is another question, but not the specific question posted here.

However, the posted message doesn't carry any intent to stipulate the personal lives of the company's employees, merely the COVID-related procedures in the workplace or on company premises.


In response to OP's comment/update

The edit doesn't quite convince me that this is intended to address personal life, but rather that it is focused on work-related interactions outside of business hours.

As a topical example for your specific scenario, note the difference between a lunch and a work lunch. The given rules make sense for a work lunch, as this is still a work-related event, even if not on company premises or technically during paid time.
This is just an example, similar arguments can be made for any company event or event with strong work ties such as a drink for someone's retirement.

The rule, in my reading of it, still doesn't necessarily include a regular lunch or actuall off-the-clock personal time.

I suggest talking to your manager to clear up the confusion here.

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  • Yeah this is what I thought as well. Unclear because the question is paraphrased, but this seems the most reasonable interpretation. The OP should clarify with their manager.
    – Kilisi
    May 19 at 14:03
  • Hello @Flater. I have edited my question above with some extra details on the policy that hopefully highlight that this policy is intended to cover none work occasions as well. Also included that they have considered exemptions for spouses. May 19 at 14:37
  • @MattBartlett: The edit doesn't quite convince me that this is intended to address personal life, but rather that it is focused on work-related interactions outside of business hours. For your specific case, note the difference between a lunch and a work lunch. The given rules make sense for a work lunch, and don't necessarily include a regular lunch.
    – Flater
    May 19 at 17:22
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    Hi @Flater I have sent an e-mail asking for clarification, however for some further background, in our business there is very little call for a "Working Lunch" between colleagues to continue work out-of-office. As for after business get togethers, I can see retirement parties being semi "company sponsored" as those kinds of things are often announced and people told they can leave early if they want. Most post work meet-ups are often from friendship groups, many of which are cross department so again, unlikely to be work purposes. May 19 at 20:54
  • @MattBartlett: I just used some random examples of possible work events outside of working hours or company premises, I of course can't know whether they specifically apply to your company or not. But it's not unreasonable for someone who drafts a company-wide ruleset to include these fringe cases even if they are not common at your company, just as a matter of trying to write a comprehensive guideline.
    – Flater
    May 20 at 7:38
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It's reasonably unlikely you're going to get a clear answer here.

The law is interpreted by the courts, which take into consideration the specifics of a particular case. When we try to determine what a company may or may not do, we look to legal precedent to inform our opinions. This is because companies often do the same.

Obviously the pandemic presents a reasonably unique background that would flavour, in some way, what a judge may decide.

If you're looking for some sort of magic document or law that you can place in front of your HR representative to make it impossible for them to try and implement such a rule, I think you're out of luck. At best, this is probably open up to interpretation.

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