As the Government provides increasing indications that the UK will start to exit lockdown shortly, it is time for businesses to prepare for the weeks and months that lie ahead by considering health and safety practices, facilitating the return of necessary employees and considering business needs for the foreseeable future.
Health and Safety
The employer has a non-delegable duty to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees under the Health and Safety Work Act 1974. Employers are facing an unprecedented challenge in having to completely change working environments and practices to ensure safety amidst Covid-19, however there are a number of ways that this can be tackled effectively.
1. Follow Government guidance and keep up to date
Taking reasonable care will most certainly involve employers taking heed of updated Government guidance and maintaining awarness of the same.
The Government has released 'Covid-19 secure' guidelines which include eight workplace settings including offices, factories, shops, vehicles and research facilities. It is advisable to carefully review the relevant guidelines in the first instance, and to monitor updates to the same.
2. Aseess risks of return to work: COVID-19 risk assessment
Employers should then consider their workplace in detail and identify the key risks facing their workforce. The most critical aspect of returning to work will be conducting a COVID-19 health and safety risk assessment. It is advisable to consult with employees on this matter, as they will be able to give a unique perspective of the challenges faced by individual roles. Risks may be different for different roles and different members of staff.
Employers are not obliged to take every possible measure to eliminate the risk of the spread of COVID-19 but they must take steps which are reasonably practicable.
If the risks cannot be avoided, consider how employees can continue to work from home, or if a staggered return could be facilitated to reduce the density of the workplace.
Employers should also consider how employees travel to work and whether arrangements can be made to avoid travel at peak times, or to encourage different, safer modes of transport.
3. Decide on effective systems
Employers will need to give considerable thought to 3 key areas: