Coronavirus

Boris Johnson issued a statement on 10th May 2020 that explained, in part, the gradual move employers will take to ease businesses out of lockdown. 

However, this still applies only to those employees who cannot work from home and they should travel to their office if it is open. Mr Johnson said this would apply for the ‘foreseeable future’. It will be mandatory for employers who are open for business to follow new “Covid-19 secure” steps to keep the infection rate to a minimum.

These steps include:

  • Change shift patterns or rotas to limit the number of people in the office at any one time
  • Take steps to stagger entry and exit, including varying shift times
  • Encourage workers to cycle, drive or walk rather than use public transport
  • Improve ventilation
  • Maintain social distancing 

Mr Johnson said on Monday: "We are going to insist that businesses across this country look after their workers, are Covid secure, Covid compliant”.

The Health and Safety Executive will be enforcing the guidelines, carrying out spot inspections to make sure employers are keeping their employees safe.

The detailed guidance has since been issued by the Government which covers eight different settings and is broken down into practical steps which the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said should be put in place “as soon as is practical”.

The guidelines for working safely that were published yesterday can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19

The BEIS recommend employers to:

  • Do a Covid-19 risk assessment
  • Follow cleaning and hygiene rules
  • Help people work from home
  • Stay two metres apart where possible
  • If two metres is not possible, take steps to manage risk

Here are the key factors on which BEIS said these steps should be based:

Those who can, should work from home

Employers should take “all reasonable steps” to allow staff to work from home. Where that is not possible and workplaces have not been told to close, the Government said people should go to work.

Assess risks in consultation with workers or trade unions

Under health and safety, employment and equalities legislation, employers should carry out Covid-19 risk assessments and consult staff or trade unions. Firms should publish the assessment if possible and BEIS said all businesses with more than 50 employees were expected to do so.

Where possible, two-metre social distancing should be maintained

Work areas should be redesigned to accommodate a distance of two metres between people, while other measures could include staggering start times, creating one-way pathways around sites, opening more entrances and exits, or changing seating plans in break rooms.

Manage the risk of transmission if two-metre distancing is not possible

This could include putting barriers in shared spaces, creating shift patterns or fixed teams to minimise contact between people, or ensuring colleagues are facing away from each other.

The guidelines state multiple people should avoid travelling in the same vehicle, and for vehicles to not be shared if possible.

Additional safety measures should be considered if social distancing is not possible for people such as couriers, mobile workers and lorry drivers.

If a risk assessment shows personal protective equipment is required then it must be provided free of charge to workers who need it, and must fit properly.

Employers are encouraged to support their workers in using face coverings safely if they choose to wear one.

More frequent cleaning

Workplaces should be cleaned more frequently, with a focus on regularly touched objects such as door handles and keyboards.

Employers are told to provide hand-washing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points.

The guidelines apply to businesses that are allowed to open under current lockdown rules and shops that could begin a phased reopening from 1st June if transmission of the virus decreases.

More modest measures have been introduced in Wales where the only notable change for businesses is that garden centres will be allowed to re-open, provided they can ensure the two metre social distancing rule is followed. This change took place from Monday 11th May 2020.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland the position is unchanged and those who are currently not working should stay at home.

 


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