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Government Publishes New Covid-19 Workplace Guidance

The UK government has published some further details of its roadmap out of lockdown as Prime Minister Boris Johnson described in his Sunday announcement.

The Plan as explained in the document “Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy” is intended to apply from Wednesday 13th May. The document also sets out what it refers to as “14 supporting programmes” for the NHS and care services, which includes expanding overseas supply chains for more PPE, accurate disease monitoring, testing and tracing and developing vaccines.

Work from home if you can

For the foreseeable future, workers should continue to work from home wherever possible rather than their normal physical workplace to minimise the risk the spread the infection.

If you can’t, then go to work

All those who can’t work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open. Sectors of the economy that are allowed to be open should be open, such as food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific research in laboratories. The only exceptions to this are those workplaces such as hospitality and non-essential retail which during this first step the Government is requiring to remain closed.

Avoid public transport

If you have to travel to work, then avoid public transport to stop overcrowding and gathering in public places. The plan also makes clear that social distancing is to be followed rigorously on public transport and the use of home-made face-coverings is recommended.

Social Distancing must be maintained (wherever possible)

Keeping with the current two metre social distancing measures, the guidance stated that employers should re-design any work areas to ensure that employees can adhere to safe distancing measures. This could include staggering shift times, having more entrances and exits and creating one-way walk throughs.

More frequent cleaning processes

Workplaces should have a more frequent cleaning schedule in place, with a focus on high-contact areas and objects such as door handles and keyboards. Employers are told to provide hand-washing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points and relevant notices.

Covid-19 Risk Assessments

According to the Government website, the guidance operates within current workplace health and safety legislation, therefore, employers should conduct COVID-19 risk assessments in conjunction with employees or any related trade unions. All businesses with more than 50 employees should publish the results of their risk assessment on their company website, while those with less than 50 employees are encouraged to do so if possible.

If a risk assessment shows PPE is required then it must be provided free of charge to workers who need it and must fit properly, but the Government guidelines say that employers “should not encourage the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against Covid-19 outside clinical settings”, or when responding to a suspected or confirmed coronavirus case. Employers are encouraged to support their workers in using face coverings safely if they choose to wear one.

Furlough payments - the Coronavirus Retention Scheme extended

Further announcements on Furlough leave and pay changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme are expected from Wednesday, with the Chancellor already announcing an extension to the end of October but said that the government will ask companies to “start sharing” the cost of the scheme from August. Rishi Sunak said that the full details are still to be worked out, but it is understood there will be options to turn the furlough “on and off” as people return to work on a part time or temporary basis to give greater flexibility to allow firms to bring staff back to work as the lockdown eases and the economy reopens.

The guidance on making a claim has been updated to reflect the fact that claims can now be saved and returned within 7 days rather than having to be completed all at once.

It still remains the case that anyone who has symptoms, however mild, or is in a household where someone has symptoms, should not leave their house to go to work.  Those people should self-isolate, as should their households.

 


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