Covid19 – Returning to Work
9 June 2020
As the government implements its plan to ease lockdown restrictions and rebuild the economy, businesses will be making their own individual plans for returning to work following the Covid19 pandemic. Employers must fulfil their legal obligations to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of both employees and the public. A review of their working activities and procedures will be required to determine any changes that need to be implemented to create a safe working environment before resuming work or returning employees to the workplace.
Government guidance to businesses is changing rapidly as the threat level is updated, we urge all our clients to keep themselves well informed conduct regular reviews to ensure they remain compliant. For current information please go to the government’s Business Support page or visit GOV.UK.
New ‘COVID-19 secure’ guidelines are available to UK employers to help them get their businesses back up and running and workplaces operating safely. There are eight guides covering a range of different types of work, but your business may operate more than one type of workplace (such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles) and you should consult the appropriate guides to consider what you need to do to keep people safe. Further guidance is expected from the government as more businesses can reopen.
Employers who have visitors to their offices or onsite are advised to ensure that employees are able to follow the government’s guidelines on working safely, in addition to complying with all the normal statutory legislation to ensure a safe working environment for your employees.
The government guidance should be considered within the normal statutory legislation as follows:
- Health & Safety at Work Act 1974
- Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999
- Workplace (Health & Safety Welfare) Regulations 1992
Covid19 Risk Assessment
A risk assessment approach is recommended, enabling employers to record the decisions they have taken to fulfil their legal duties to protect the physical and mental health, safety and welfare of employees and the public.
We are already seeing requests for clients to provide in advance Covid19 risk assessments and PPE details before attending construction sites. If your business involves work on site or at a customer’s premises you should be prepared for these requests.
As with all risk assessments being tailored to your business activities and good record keeping will be key, both for providing information on request to customers and in the protection of the business in the event of a problem down the line. The actions required and PPE appropriate may vary dependent on the working environment and tasks undertaken. As government advice on Covid19 is changing rapidly, risk assessments must be regularly reviewed to ensure they remain current and effective.
When reviewing your working environment, you will need to establish if it is possible for employees to work in accordance with social distancing and the appropriate provision of PPE. Covid 19 protocols should be communicated in writing to all employees and we recommend that all employees sign agreeing to comply with the procedures and use of PPE.
Employers with less than five employees do not have all of the same regulations under health and safety legislation in relation to health and safety policy. However, it is recommended that all businesses consider the above actions to safeguard their employees and the public.
Whilst it is not clear if there will be claims arising from Covid19 under employers’ liability policies, as an employer your statutory obligations to provide a safe working environment, safe working practices and safe machinery/equipment/tools also apply to the Covid19 virus.
As stated above appropriate risk assessments and record keeping are key documents in the event of a claim, demonstrating the risks considered and measures implemented.
Employee engagement by a signed agreement to the employer’s Covid19 protocols will we believe be an important measure, as well as allowing employees to raise any concerns with the employer.
Insurers recognised that government restrictions dictated some businesses were temporarily closed and policyholders would not be able to meet the unoccupancy conditions of their policies. Changes were introduced by insurers to relax policy conditions to take into account this unprecedented situation.
Whilst we are seeing restrictions on certain businesses being eased by the government, many businesses such as those in the restaurant and leisure sectors, are not yet able to open and their premises remain unoccupied.
It is essential that you inform us if your business premises are unoccupied, or you have commercial tenants that have vacated and have not yet returned to the premises. We can then ensure you are aware of your Insurer’s position and the precautions necessary during the ongoing unoccupancy.
Please get in touch with your usual Wilsons contact or email [email protected]
Government advice – www.gov.uk/coronavirus
Government ‘Working Safely’ advice – www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19
HSE – www.hse.gov.uk
Scotland – www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/
Wales – gov.wales/coronavirus
Northern Ireland – www.nidirect.gov.uk
Help & Support
This is obviously a very abbreviated guidance note and it is essential that you read the government guidance and consider the appropriate steps for your business, then keep updated with the latest guidance. Separate guidance is available for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and links are provided above.
We want to assure you that Wilsons are providing support to clients as usual, albeit currently we are not able to do this face to face and some insurer timescales are slightly longer. We have maintained a core team at Wilson House throughout with our homeworking team on a phased return to the office.
Please contact your account executive directly or call the office on 0115 942 0111 with any queries – we are always here to help.
On behalf of all at Wilsons we wish you well as economic activity builds again, take care and stay safe.