Govt. issues return to work guidance for employers

‘COVID-19 secure’ steps

Adam Saville
Govt. issues return to work guidance for employers

Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) outlines practical guidelines for workplaces

The UK government has issued guidance to help employers ensure workplaces are ‘COVID-19 secure', as businesses take steps to open workplaces following the lockdown.

The BEIS has consulted around 250 stakeholders, including the likes of Public Health England (PHE) and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), to develop five key pointers for best practice.

The guidance, which also applies to business currently open, covers eight workplace settings which are allowed to start operating, from outdoor environments and construction sites to factories and food outlets.

It is believed shops may be in a position to begin a phased reopening from 1 June and guidance for other sectors will be developed and published at a later date.

The five key points include:

  1. Work from home, if you can

Employers are expected to take all reasonable steps to help employees work from home. The government said staff should speak to their employer about when their workplace will open, because those who cannot operate remotely have been told to start work.

  1. COVID-19 risk assessments in consultation with workers or trade unions

This guidance, which operates within current health and safety employment and equalities legislation, requires employers to carry out COVID-19 risk assessments in consultation with their workers or trade unions, to establish what guidelines to put in place. Employers should publish the results of their risk assessments on their website if possible and all businesses with over 50 employees are expected to do so.

  1. Maintain two metres social distancing, wherever possible

Employers are expected to redesign workspaces to maintain two metre distances between workers, by staggering start times, creating one way walk-throughs, opening more entrances and exits, or changing seating layouts in break-out areas.

  1. Manage transmission risk where people cannot be two metres apart

Employers should look into putting barriers in shared spaces, creating workplace shift patterns or fixed teams minimising the number of people in contact with one another, or ensuring colleagues are facing away from each other.

  1. Cleaning processes

Workplaces should be cleaned more frequently, paying close attention to high-contact objects like door handles and keyboards. Employers should provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points. Employers should display a downloadable document included in the guidance documents in their workplaces.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: "This guidance provides a framework to get the UK back to work in a way that is safe for everyone.

"These are practical steps to enable employers to identify risks that COVID-19 creates and to take pragmatic measures to mitigate them.

"And as we are able to reopen new sectors of the economy, we will continue our collaborative approach working with a wide range of stakeholders, to provide guidance for additional workplaces."

Health and safety

As part of today's announcement, the government has made available up to an extra £14 million for the HSE, equivalent to an increase of 10% of its budget, for extra call centre employees, inspectors and equipment if needed.

Sarah Albon, chief executive, HSE, added: "The BEIS guidance issued today sets out practical steps employers can take to enable staff to continue and return to work. We have worked with BEIS to ensure businesses have access to the information they need to put in place measures to help them work safely. This will assist employers in carrying out risk assessments and putting practical measures in place.

"At the heart of the return to work is controlling the risk posed by the virus. Ensuring safe working practices are in place will help deliver a safe return to work and support businesses across the country."

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