On 13 May 2020 the government took the first tentative steps to bring the UK out of its coronavirus lockdown. One of the big changes is that the government is now encouraging people to return to work if they are unable to work from home. This presents a problem to employers who are liable for the health and safety of their workers at the workplace in the midst of the pandemic.
The health and safety executive has expanded its guidance to assist employers who are now considering opening their workplaces and the gov.uk website provides specific advice for the following business areas:
Most importantly, where workers can work at home they should continue to do so.
If an employee is clinically vulnerable and requires shielding then the advice has not changed and these people must not return to the workplace. Our recent article discussed the obligations employers have to workers who are working from home.
For employees returning to the workplace, the employer should undertake a risk assessment to manage the impact coronavirus might have upon their workers. Where a business has five or more people, these risk assessments should be done in writing.
Employers should be looking to put in place policies and procedures that allows for social distancing and keeps workers 2 meters apart at all times. Where this is not possible, the employer should consider installing screens to protect workers or using the minimum number of people required to carry out a task safely.
Employers should also take steps that encourage good hygiene practices of frequent hand washing with soap and water for at least 20-seconds, as well as increased cleaning and considering whether the use of PPE is necessary. Employers should establish how to deal with common areas within the workplace, or how to limit movement of employees in a manner that encourages social distancing, such as staggering working hours and breaks.
We appreciate that the coronavirus pandemic places an additional strain on employers who doubtless have many other business concerns at this difficult time, however, it is essential that businesses adapt to their obligations for the post-lockdown work environment.
We would be happy to discuss your approach to opening up your business to comply with your health and safety requirements, provide advice on how to deal with risk assessments and enacting new policies and procedures that ensure compliance.