Current Government guidance provides practical advice to employers on how to protect their workforce and customers whilst continuing to operate in the event that they cannot work from home.

Click here for Employers and Business Government Guidance

 

The guidance recommends that employers:

  • update employees regularly on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure to coronavirus;
  • ensure employees who are in a vulnerable group are strongly advised to follow social distancing guidance;
  • ensure employees who are in an extremely vulnerable group and should be shielded are supported to stay at home;
  • maintain up to date employee contact and emergency contact details;
  • ensure managers know how to spot symptoms of coronavirus and are clear on any relevant processes, for example, sickness reporting and sick pay;
  • ensure there are places to wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, and encourage all employees to do so regularly;
  • provide hand sanitiser and tissues and encourage all employees to use them.

 

How should employees social distance?

  • maintain a distance of at least 2m between individuals and use floor markings to mark the distance;
  • remind staff to wash their hands regularly using soap and water for 20 seconds, particularly after blowing their nose, sneezing or coughing, and provide pop-up handwashing stations if possible;
  • provide hand sanitiser where sinks are not available;
  • encourage the use of digital and remote transfers of material such as e-forms, emails and e-banking;
  • where it is not possible to remain 2 metres apart, staff should work side by side, or facing away from each other, rather than face to face if possible;
  • where face-to-face contact is essential, this should be kept to 15 minutes or less wherever possible.

 

What if employees cannot social distance?

The guidance recommends that where social distancing cannot be implemented into an activity, the business should consider whether the activity needs to continue for the business to operate. The sector-specific guidance (see below) provides examples of how to mitigate the risk in this event.

 

What about customer-facing roles?

The guidance recommends additional requirements for customer-facing roles, including:

  • signage to direct movement into lanes while maintaining a 2-metre distance;
  • regulating entry to prevent overcrowding;
  • signage to ask customers not to enter the premises if they have symptoms;
  • plexiglass barriers at points of regular interaction as an additional element of protection for workers and customers, and where customers might touch or lean against these, ensure they are cleaned and disinfected as often as possible.

 

What is the guidance on travelling to and from work?

Government guidance recommends that employers stagger on-premises hours to reduce public transport use during peak periods. Staff who are unwell with the symptoms of Covid-19 should not travel to or from the workplace.

 

What is cohorting?

The Government guidance recommends cohorting which means to keep teams of workers together so, where contact is unavoidable, this happens between the same individuals. The Government guidance also recommends to:

  • keep cohorting teams as small as possible;
  • split staff into teams with alternate days working from home, or split across a day and night shift;
  • spread out standard processes, so that only one team needs to be on the premises to complete a task at a given time.

 

Sector-specific guidance

The Government has also published sector-specific guidance to aid employers in implementing these measures within a range of industries including logistics, manufacturing, construction, and retail.

Click here to view sector-specific guidance from The Government

 

Risk Assessment

Robust risk assessments will prove an essential tool for employers developing their return to work plan and aid in ensuring compliance with changing Government guidance.

Amongst other considerations, employers should assess:

Working conditions and workplace/desk proximity and the ability to implement changing guidance from national and international public health and occupational health.

Composition of the workforce.  Assess those that are high-risk or live with people who are deemed high-risk and shielding and may be unable to return to the workplace immediately.

Social distancing measures and the ability to implement the restrictions within the workplace.

Commuting. The ability of the workforce to commute safely to and from work, including avoiding travel during rush hour. Employers should consider which members of their workforce visit off-site premises as part of their duties and whether alternative arrangements can be implemented such as video conferencing.

Work from home. The capacity to continue working from home and a long-term shift to de-centralised working.

PPE. The additional need for PPE or other protective equipment. Employers investing in PPE will also need to factor in training on how to use such equipment into their return to work plan.

Mental Health. The risk to employees’ mental health on returning to work. Many people will have experienced mental health challenges as a result of the pandemic. Adopting a holistic approach to assessing the impact of returning to work on employees’ physical and mental health will prove essential when managing the stress and anxiety returning to the workplace may present.

The current period of lockdown is scheduled to end 7 May, and clearer guidance from the Government on how businesses can return to the workplace is due to be released this week (week commencing 4.5.2020). It is recommended that employers keep checking to ensure that they are following the most up to date guidance. If in doubt, please take legal advice.

 

We're here to help.

You can contact our specialist Employment team on 0161 941 4000 or via email.

We also recommend paying close attention to any new government guidance at www.gov.uk and following our COVID-19 blog series.