Covid and the Roadmap Back to Work
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Sunday 10 May 2020, the Government released ‘Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy’, which became available on Monday 11 May 2020. Following this, the Government released the ‘COVID-19 Secure Guidelines’. These have been produced following consultation with each industry to help ensure that workplaces are as safe as possible.
There are 8 sector-specific guidance documents, which cover:
- 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
Each of the specific guidance documents contains the same core information. As the weeks go on, we will produce a summary for each specific sector. Even if your company’s specific sector isn’t currently listed, it will give you a good idea as to what will be expected. For now, we will summarise some of the key points arising from the secure guidelines.
Completing a specific Covid-19 risk assessment is the focus for the start of each guidance document. It states that employers should carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment. If you have fewer than five employees, you don’t need to have written evidence (although it is always better to do so) and for all employers, there are Interactive tools from HSE to help – https://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/assessment.htm . Importantly, it confirms that there is a duty on employers to consult with its employees concerning the approach it is taking regarding health and safety. Non-compliance with health and safety can potentially lead to HSE issuing an enforcement notice but can also give rise to constructive dismissal and personal injury claims. In terms of actions, the secure guidelines for offices and contact centres state that companies should take “preventative measures” in this order:
- Increase frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning
- Enable working from home as first option
- If working from home is not possible, ensure social distancing (2m) is complied with
- Where social distancing cannot be complied with, consider whether the business needs to continue to operate. If so, take all mitigating actions to reduce risk of transmission:
a) Increase frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning
b)Keeping activity time involved as short as possible
c)Use screens or barriers
d)Use back to back or side to side working rather than face to face
e)Reduce number of people each person has contact with by using fixed teams.
- If people must work face to face for a continued period of time, you must assess whether the activity can safely go ahead.
- Have particular regard to those who are especially vulnerable to Covid-19.
It’s always important to bear in mind that no one is obliged to work in an unsafe environment.
Each of the sector-specific documents contain very similar suggestions. In addition, companies are recommended to share the results of the risk assessment with staff. In particular, those employers with over 50 staff should publish it on their website, with the Government providing a template compliance notice within the secure guidelines.
There are also guidelines surrounding how companies should ensure that social distancing is complied with in the workplace. Some of the recommendations include staggering arrival and departure times, using markings and one way flow at entry and exit points, providing handwashing facilities or hand sanitiser, ensuring that workstations are assigned and not shared, allowing people to work further apart from each other, use screens, avoid hot desking and spaces, use remote working tools to avoid in person meetings. We could go on. There are numerous recommendations, and as we stated above, we will produce specific summaries for each sector-specific guidance.
The different sector guidance’s can be found at the following links:
- construction and other outdoor work – https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5eb961bfe90e070834b6675f/working-safely-during-covid-19-construction-outdoors-110520.pdf
- factories, plants and warehouses – https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5eb965d5d3bf7f5d3c74a2dd/working-safely-during-covid-19-factories-plants-warehouses-110520.pdf
- labs and research facilities – https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5eb9752086650c2799a57ac5/working-safely-during-covid-19-labs-research-facilities-110520.pdf
- offices and contact centres – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/offices-and-contact-centres
- other people’s homes – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/homes
- restaurants offering takeaway or delivery – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/restaurants-offering-takeaway-or-delivery
- shops and branches – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/shops-and-branches
- vehicles – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/vehicles
We will keep this page updated as soon as more concrete information becomes available.