As the stay at home rule relaxes and businesses get the green light to re-open, employers are making plans to bring their staff back into the workplace.
All employers have a statutory duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees as far as reasonably practicable. The government’s message remains that employees should continue to work from home. However, where that is not possible and it is necessary to ask employees to work on site, employers must take steps to ensure that the workplace is Covid-19 secure.
The first step that employers should take before inviting employees back onto their premises is carrying out a risk assessment.
- Identifying the work activities or situations that might cause transmission of the virus;
- Identifying who might be at risk – including employees, contractors and visitors to the office;
- Determining how likely it is that someone could be exposed to the virus;
- Acting to remove the activity or situation;
- If the activity or situation cannot be removed entirely, acting to control the risk.
The results of the risk assessment should be shared with employees.
Practical steps to control the risk
Controlling the risk may include temporary changes to an employee’s duties by removing high risk activities; adopting a flexible working approach such as staggered start and end times; and adapting the workplace to maintain social distancing. Particular focus should be given to shared equipment, such as printers and photocopies, and shared facilities such as bathrooms, kitchens and break out areas.
Employers should implement strict handwashing and hygiene procedures, providing sufficient facilities to ensure that employees are adhering to high standards of hygiene. Employers should also look at how often and the standard to which its offices are cleaned.
Communication is important
Employers should communicate with their employees in advance of asking them back to the workplace, making sure to consider and respond to any concerns or queries they may have about how it intends to protect their health and safety. By sharing the results of the risk assessment, employers will be able to offer assurance that returning to the workplace is safe.