What is a Frontline Employee or Key Worker?

What is a Frontline Employee or Key Worker?

In the wake of the UK Government announcing new measures to stop the spread of coronavirus, we take a quick look at the definition of key workers and frontline staff in the UK

By Jyoti Patel

Key workers or frontline staff are employees who provide an essential service or key public service. The term has been used in many recent government announcements as officials introduce new measures to stop the spread of coronavirus in the UK

UK Government's definition of a key worker

The UK Government has defined 'key workers' as those who are critical to the Covid-19 response or delivering essential public services within the UK, such as those who are at the frontline of health and social care. 

Key workers & provisions for their children

In the wake of school closures, the Government has announced that schools and nurseries should continue to make provisions to care for the children of key workers if they can not be looked after at home. This is so that key workers can continue to provide essential goods and frontline services in the response to the pandemic. 

As such, schools and nurseries have been told to prioritize the children of key workers for schooling. The current rule is that children can continue to attend school if one parent is classed as a key worker. 

Key workers and UK lockdown rules

The term 'key worker' also appears in the recently announced UK lockdown rules, which state that everyone across the UK must stay at home unless they need to get essential supplies, help the vulnerable or go outside for one form of exercise per day. Everyone who can work from home must do so, and non-essential businesses and premises must close.

During this time, only key workers are permitted to leave their home for work. 

Who is a key worker?

There is an official list of key workers, as published by The Department of Education, outlining the support and specialist staff who are crucial to the UK's Covid-19 response. The list currently includes, but isn't limited to, the following critical sectors:

Health and social care: such as doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics and social workers.

Education and childcare: such as those in the social care sector, teachers, specialist education professionals.

Key public services: such as journalists, those working in the justice system, religious staff or charity staff. 

Local and national government: such as those working in the payment of benefits.

Food and goods provisions: such as workers in the food production and distribution supply chain, as well as those in sales and delivery. This also includes those who work in the production of hygiene and medical goods.

Public safety and national security: such as the police, Ministry of Defence civilians, armed forces, fire service employees, security, prison and probation staff.

Transport: such as workers in the air, water, road and rail transport systems. 

Utilities, communications and key financial services: such as workers needed for essential finance provisions, telecommunications, oil, gas or electricity suppliers, postal and delivery services, waste disposal and more.

What to do if you think you are a key worker 

Your manager should, by now, have clarified if you are a key worker and need to continue going to work. 

If you are still unsure of whether you count as a key worker or not, it's vital to check with your employer if your role is necessary for the continuation of an essential public service.

The Government is continuing to review the situation and provide further clarity on how to work safely if you are a key worker. For example, construction workers have been told to continue working, but stay at least two meters apart, while plumbers and electricians have been told they are permitted to attend to emergencies in people's homes during the lockdown. You can keep up with the latest government guidance here