Covid-19 restrictions - Stage 4 Government guidance for Employers
- AuthorHannah Maxwell
From yesterday 19 July, the majority of legal restrictions relating to COVID-19 were lifted. The Government has now published its guidance on how to manage a gradual return to the workplace and what employers will be expected to do.
Broadly speaking, the guidance has been broken into six guides, covering a range of workplaces:
- Construction and other outdoor work;
- Events and attractions;
- Hotels and guest accommodation;
- Offices, factories and labs;
- Restaurants, pubs, bars, nightclubs and takeaway services;
- Shops, branches and close contact services.
Separate guidance is available for:
- Schools, further education and childcare providers;
- Wedding and civil partnership ceremonies, receptions and celebrations;
The full guidance for each of the above can be found here.
Employers are reminded that, whilst the legal COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, employers still have a duty of care. They have a legal obligation to take all reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of staff. It is, therefore, vital that employers review the guidance, being mindful that more than one guide may apply and seek expert advice should queries arise.
The guidance has been published to inform planning and business operations across industry sectors and, as such, there are differences between each guide, however, the key messaging for the employers is:
1. We all have a responsibility to look after our own health and safety. Employers must continue to conduct regular risk assessments and take reasonable steps to manage risks within the workplace as well as engaging with staff about arrangements. Adjustments should be considered for those who have disabilities or may otherwise struggle with the proposed arrangements.
2. Ensure good ventilation by opening windows, using fans or air conditioning units. If mechanical ventilation is being used, ensure that systems are set to maximise fresh air. Poorly ventilated spaces should be identified as part of a risk assessment. The Government recommends using a CO2 monitor to identify these areas and appropriate measures should be taken, such as limiting the number of people within the space at any one time.
3. Ensure frequent cleaning and promote handwashing through NHS signage and posters and provide hand sanitiser in multiple, accessible locations. Clean objects and surfaces between each use and ensure that there are adequate waste disposal facilities.
4. Whilst it will no longer be a legal requirement to wear a face covering it is expected and recommended that people continue to do so in crowded and enclosed spaces. Employers should act reasonably when determining their own policies.
5. Turn away those who have COVID-19 symptoms. Staff should self-isolate if they or someone they live with have symptoms, or if they are required to self-isolate as part of NHS Test and Trace. It is illegal to knowingly allow someone who is being required to self-isolate to come to work. Those who can work from home should be enabled to do so and paid in full. Those who are unable to work from home should, at least, be paid Statutory Sick Pay, subject to eligibility.
6. Reduce interactions between people whilst at work – encourage a gradual transition when returning to the workplace and consider using screens or barriers to separate people from each other or using back-to-back or side-to-side working.
7. Display an official NHS QR code poster to encourage visitors to check in to the premises. Whilst this is no longer a legal requirement, this will support NHS Test and Trace.
8. Be mindful of staff wellbeing and mental health. The lifting of restrictions imposed over the last 18 months will receive a mixed response and some people will be nervous about a return to work, particularly those who have been working from home or on furlough leave.
Consider measures to support your employees, such as employee assistance programmes recognising a potential for increased demand. Alongside this, engagement from HR teams and onsite mental health first aiders and clear communications about arrangements and expectations will help.
If you would like advice about what the end of Coronavirus restrictions means for employers, please do not hesitate to contact me on 01206 217341 or firstname.lastname@example.org