Overnight the government published guidance as to what makes a workplace “COVID-19 Secure”. The guidance is broken down into eight types of workplace and although the guidance is reasonably generic across workplace types, there are some material differences so it is essential that you read the guidance relevant to your workplace in full which can be found here.
In terms of the general themes, we knew most of this already;
- If employees can work from home then they should continue to do so.
- If they cannot work from home then they should maintain safe social distancing of 2m or more, appropriate additional cleaning should be undertaken and PPE provided by you as the employer.
- If they cannot work from home and cannot maintain safe social distancing of 2m or more an assessment must be made of whether the role is necessary to the business;
i. if not then they should be left at home and not work, using the furlough scheme if possible.
ii. if they are then you should take whatever steps you can to protect their health and wellbeing including sitting people back to back or side by side, use of screens, additional cleaning, more robust PPE etc.
- All employers must undertake full health and safety risk assessments on each place of work and where appropriate for each person and role being undertaken. Those employers with more than 50 employees must publish these risk assessments on their website (unless they are assessments of named individuals – for example those who are high risk).
- Where you share a workplace with other businesses you must operate a joined up approach to any shared areas.
- Employees who are extremely high risk must remain at home regardless of the above.
- Employees who are high risk may return to work but only if necessary and additional steps are taken to protect their health and wellbeing.
- Enhanced cleaning must be undertaken around the workplace.
- PPE appropriate to the workplace must be provided.
It is all largely common sense recommendations and a methodical work through of the steps you need to take.
Importantly despite calls from some business groups for liability for COVID-19 related illness to be excluded from the usual responsibilities of an employer under health and safety legislation this has (unsurprisingly) not happened and so it is important that your risk assessments are robust and that you follow this guidance along with any additional guidance from your insurer. It is quite possible that this guidance will change over time so we would recommend downloading the guidance and retaining a copy of each version along with each version of your risk assessments. This will help to demonstrate compliance so far as you can.
There is a lot here to work through but there is a clear desire from government to get the economy up and running again and move to the ‘new normal’ for working arrangements.
Finally we are expecting to hear from the Chancellor today as to the continuation of the furlough scheme and how that will work going forward. As soon as we hear further we will let you know.
If you have any queries on this guidance please do contact Gary Smith on 01279 712576 or via email email@example.com.