Guidelines for re-opening workplaces - Kuits Solicitors Manchester
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Government releases guidelines for reopening workplaces

Government releases guidelines for reopening workplaces

13th May 2020 - Published by Kuits employment team

Covid-19 Recovery Strategy

10:00am, Wednesday 13 May 2020

The government has now published its COVID-19 recovery strategy titled “Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy”, referring to it as its “cautious roadmap”.

The plan applies to workplaces in England starting to open from today (Wednesday 13 May) and can be accessed here by clicking HERE.

Government Proposals

The proposals relating to the workplace come into force today and are as follows:

  • Industries which have not specifically been told that they must remain closed should open. Currently only hospitality and non-essential retail have been told that they must remain closed.
  • Workers who can work from home should continue to do so and employers should make reasonable adjustments to allow their employees to do so. For example, by providing the correct equipment.
  • Workers who cannot work from home should attend work if their workplace is open. However, if workers develop COVID-19 related symptoms, or if anybody in their household does then they must self-isolate at home. Where workers cannot work from home employers should take steps to reduce the number of people that workers come into contact with whilst at work and travelling to work. For example, by:
    • Changing shift patterns and rotas to match teams together and splitting workers into smaller teams;
    • Allowing the use of more entrances and exits;
    • Staggering start and finish times for workers;
    • Encouraging workers not to travel to work on public transport and so employers should consider expanding bicycle storage facilities, changing facilities and car parking;
    • Telling workers that need to travel to work on public transport then they should avoid peak times. To enable this employers should be flexible with working hours.

The fact the proposals come into effect today does not give businesses much time to prepare and reorganise their business. However, if businesses want their employees to now return to work, where they are unable to work from home, then businesses will need to be able to show that they are implementing the latest government guidance so far as is reasonably possible.

Government guides for the workplace

In addition to its plan the government has also published its “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines for workplaces titled “Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)”, which can be accessed by clicking HERE.

The publication provides practical guides across eight different workplace settings. They are:

  • Construction and other outdoor work
  • Factories, plants and warehouses
  • Labs and research facilities
  • Offices and contact centres
  • Other people’s homes
  • Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery
  • Shops and branches
  • Vehicles

The guides relate only to workplaces that are allowed to open under the current rules. Whilst each guide carries advice tailored to the specific workplace setting the key points that all categories of business should be aware of are:

  • Risk assessments: All businesses need to carry out a risk assessment to address the risk of COVID-19 in their workplace. To do this employee representatives should be consulted with regarding these risks and how they can be minimised. The results of the risk assessment should be shared with employees. Employers who employ over 50 employees will be expected to publish their risk assessment on their website.
  • Social distancing should be maintained: A two metre space between workers should be maintained where possible at all times in the workplace. This will require businesses to reorganise their workplace by doing things such as staggering shift patterns, having a one-way system around the workplace and placing two metre markings on the floor.
  • Where social distancing is not possible: Businesses should consider closing these areas temporarily. If it is necessary for these areas to remain open, then steps need to be taken to minimise the risk such as having fixed teams, barriers between individuals and allowing workers to work side by side rather than face to face.
  • More frequent cleaning: Employers should provide a place for employees to wash their hands with soap and hot water. Hand sanitiser should be provided at entrances and exits and employees should be encouraged to use it regularly. More frequent cleaning should be carried out in all businesses with a particular focus on touch points.

A notice is available for businesses to print and display in their workplace to show they have followed the government guidance.

The guides will provide some practical help to businesses who have either reopened or who are planning their reopening. However, it places a large responsibility on employers and will require a good deal of planning. If employers fail to implement the relevant guide they could find that their employees are unwilling to attend work and risk being reported to either their local authority or HSE who could issue enforcement notices.

Get in touch with an employment solicitor in Manchester

Our experienced advisors are already talking to employers about the journey back to work. If you require any advice please call Mark McKeating or Claire Treacy on 0161 838 7810 or email markmckeating@kuits.com.

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