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Working Safely During COVID-19: New Guidance for Employers

15.05.2020 Employment, pensions & immigration

Laura Livingstone

Laura Livingstone Partner, Head of Employment

The recently published government guidance provides a framework to encourage the UK to return to work and for workplaces to operate as safely as possible.

The guidance sets out practical steps to enable employers to identify risks that COVID-19 creates and to take pragmatic measures to mitigate them.

There is sector specific guidance for eight workplace settings that are currently allowed to open: construction and other outdoor work; factories, plants and warehouses; labs and research facilities; offices and contact centres; other people’s homes; restaurants offering takeaway or delivery; shops and branches; and vehicles.

There are, of course, businesses that must still remain closed to members of the public such as hairdressers, non-essential retail stores, nightclubs and places of worship (a full list and the exceptions to this list can be found here). The sector specific guidance will be added to as the situation develops and more businesses and sectors are permitted to open.

Employers should monitor the guidance and plan what specific measures will need to be implemented upon returning to work.

What measures should be implemented generally?

Employers should implement the following as soon as possible:

1. Work from home, if possible

Employers should take all reasonable steps to allow employees to work from home where possible. However, employees who by the nature of their role are unable to work from home, should go to work. 

Examples are individuals who work in the construction or manufacturing industries.
You should discuss with employees your company’s plans for opening as soon as possible.

2. Undertake a COVID-19 risk assessment 

Employers must carry out COVID-19 risk assessments in consultation with their workers or trade unions, to establish what practical measure and guidelines to put in place.

The government expects all employers with over 50 employees to publish the results of the risk assessment on the company website. 

We would also advise smaller business with under 50 employees to publish the results where possible. In any event, it would be best practice for all businesses, regardless of size, to retain a record of the risk assessment undertaken and results of such assessment. 

3. Encourage and maintain social distancing

Wherever possible, employers should re-design workspaces to maintain two metre distances between staff. This can be done by staggering start times, creating one way walk-throughs, opening more entrances and exits and changing seating layouts in break rooms. 

4. Manage transmission risk

If employees are unable to be kept two metres apart, employers should take other action such as putting barriers into shared spaces, creating shift patterns and/or fixed teams to minimise the number of people in contact with one another, or ensuring colleagues are facing away from each other.

5. Implement a cleaning process

Workplaces should be cleaned more frequently during the COVID-19 pandemic, paying close attention to objects that have high levels of contact, such as door handles and keyboards. There should be handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points. 

6. Display a notice confirming the guidance has been followed

This can be found here. Employers must display the notice in the workplace to show employees and visitors that the guidance has been followed.

Article authors:

Laura Livingstone