Working Safely During Coronavirus
On the back of the Government’s announcement on Sunday and the first tentative steps to ease the lockdown during the current Coronavirus pandemic, the Government has also published its guidance on the steps employers need to take to ensure that their workforce are working safely as people return to work – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19. The Guidance applies to businesses currently permitted to open. It also includes guidance for shops which the government hopes will be able to begin a phased reopening from 1 June. Guidance for other sectors that are currently closed will be developed and published ahead of those establishments opening to give those businesses time to plan.
The guidance sets out five main principles that are then distilled into more detailed guidance across 8 sectors – construction and outdoor work; factories, plants and warehouses, lab and research facilities; office and contact centres; other people’s houses; restaurants offering takeaway or delivery; shops and branches; and vehicles.
The 5 main principles are:
- Work from home if possible
- Consult with workers on COVID-19 risk assessments
- Maintain two metres social distancing where possible
- Manage transmission risks; and
- Reinforce cleaning processes.
The first key step for any business who is looking at opening up the workplace and asking employees to return will be to carry out a risk assessment. The Guidance makes it clear that employers are expected to consult with employees on the risk assessments. In addition, having completed the risk assessment, employers should consider publishing the results on their website with the expectation that all employers with 50+ workers will do this. However, given that the Guidance appears to be non-statutory, it is not clear as to what sanction if any will be imposed on employers who don’t comply with this requirement.
There is also a further requirement for employers to display a notice in the work place that confirms that they have followed the Government’s Guidance. The form of notice can be downloaded from the Guide.
Given the clear message is still work from home if possible and with Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme providing for furloughed employees still active, we would expect that many employers will take a cautious approach when it comes to reopening places of work. For those employers that are looking at taking these steps, even if only for a small percentage of their workforce initially, they will need to make sure that they carry out the necessary risk assessments and take the required measures to ensure workplaces are safe for employees to return to.
Please contact Matt Jenkin, Moorcrofts Employment Partner, if you would like further information on the steps you as an employer need to take to ensure that your workforce are working safely as they return to work.