Government advice states that all UK employers should follow new COVID-secure guidelines (published on Gov.UK as of 11 May 2020), as soon as practically possible.
The guidelines cover eight workplace settings that are permitted to open, and focus on five key points:
- All reasonable steps should be taken by employers to help people work from home, where possible.
- Carry out a COVID-19 (coronavirus) risk assessment, in consultation with workers or trade unions. Employers with over 50 employees will be expected to publish the results of their risk assessments on their websites. All employers have an existing legal duty under Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to conduct such a risk assessment.
- Maintain two metres social distancing wherever possible (e.g. by re-designing workspaces, creating one-way walk-throughs, and changing layouts in break areas).
- Where people cannot be two metres apart, manage transmission risk (e.g. putting up Perspex barriers in shared spaces, and creating workplace shift patterns to minimise contact).
- The reinforcement of cleaning processes. Workplaces should be cleaned more frequently (paying close attention to high-contact objects like door handles and keyboards), and employers should provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points.
A list of businesses and premises that should remain closed until further notice can be found here.
All employers have health and safety obligations to keep employees informed about health risks that may arise in carrying out their duties and to ensure that working practices do not create undue risks to employees.
Government guidance suggests that it is good practice for employers to:
- keep everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace.
- ensure vulnerable employees (with existing unrelated COVID-19 health conditions) strictly adhere to social distancing guidance or are shielded.
- ensure that employee contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date.
- ensure that managers can spot symptoms of COVID-19 and are clear on any relevant processes and procedures, including sickness reporting and sick pay.
- ensure there are appropriate places to wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds and encourage all employees to do so regularly.
- provide hand sanitisers and tissues for staff.
- ensure spaces in the workplace are optimised to allow social distancing, wherever possible; and
- have visible signs in the workplace reminding employees not to attend work if they have a fever or cough, and to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
For more information, please review the Government’s guidelines to staying alert and safe (maintaining social distancing). You can also visit the Government’s COVID-19 FAQs section regarding what you can and cannot do during the current pandemic. More helpful information is available in the members’ login area of the PPMA Group website.
If you suspect or are unsure if you or a colleague may have COVID-19 symptoms, visit the NHS website here.