With England now having moved to stage four of the UK Government’s “roadmap” out of the longstanding coronavirus restrictions, updated guidance on working safely has been set out.
In news that will naturally be of interest to organisations benefitting from various London Registrars services such as statutory records and Company Secretarial Support, the Government has re-categorised its guidance into six separate sector-specific guides.
These guides, in turn, address the main activities, with separate guidelines having been published for niche activities. Such workplaces as offices, factories and labs have now been grouped together.
The Government has said that it expects and recommends a gradual return to workplaces during the summer. It has urged employers to talk about the return to the workplace with workers and trade unions, so that working arrangements can be made that satisfy the requirements of both individuals and businesses.
In addition, employers have been encouraged to liaise on matters of health and safety with any other firms with which may share a workspace.
What six priority actions are businesses urged to take?
Detailed in the modified Government guidance are six priority actions businesses have been told they should be taking from 19 July 2021. These measures are all expected in order to help protect workers and customers alike, and include the following:
- Health and safety assessments
- Providing adequate ventilation
- Regular cleaning
- Turning away anyone with symptoms of COVID-19
- Allowing people to check in to premises
- Communicating and providing training on the safety measures presently in place
How can businesses ensure they meet their obligations?
Organisations have been told that they should be implementing measures to help minimise contact between workers, such as the use of fixed teams or “cohorting” so that an employee only works with a few others, as well as putting in place screens or barriers where people do find themselves in close proximity.
It has also been suggested that employers should consider back-to-back and side-to-side working, instead of face-to-face. Also, where possible, workstations should be assigned to individuals. Where there is a need for continued hot-desking arrangements, employers are expected to make sure these areas are adequately cleaned.
The continued wearing of face coverings by workers and customers is also still encouraged in crowded or enclosed spaces. Employers should support workers who favour wearing a face covering, while being mindful of those with disabilities before demanding that they are worn. Employers have been advised against the precautionary use of PPE unless non-COVID risks make it necessary, or unless they are responding to a suspected or confirmed case of the virus.
What relation does the guidance have to existing employment and health and safety law?
The above guidance does not supersede the existing legal obligations imposed on employers with regard to health and safety, employment, and equalities duties in relation to employees, workers and customers. It is, instead, non-statutory guidance that employers are expected to take into account in the process of meeting existing obligations.
Employers have been urged to give particular consideration to higher-risk workers and those facing difficulties with their physical and mental health. Employers can support such them by discussing their individual needs and taking any further precautions that their clinicians advise.
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