Health and Safety Issues for Employers
Although Covid-19 presents a new threat to workplace health and safety, the steps that employers must consider can be found – for the most part – in existing legislation.
Particular guidance relating to managing workplace safety in the context of Covid-19 can be obtained from the both the Health and Safety Executive and ACAS alongside Government ‘Covid-19 secure’ guidelines – key FAQs and links to these are included below and in our downloadable guidance.
Our FAQs are for general guidance only, and do not constitute and should not be relied upon, as legal advice. Every business and challenge is, of course, different. If you are an employer and your business needs specific support and advice for your unique context please contact at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last update: 28/01/2021 – 16.45
Eight particular workplace settings are covered. Many businesses operate more than one type of workplace, such as offices, factories or fleets of vehicles. Employers may need to use more than one of these guides as they consider, consult on and carry out risk assessments, to inform what steps need to be taken to keep employees safe. For more information see Government Guidance on Working Safety During Coronavirus https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19
Employees who can work from home should continue to do so and employers are expected to take reasonable steps to help staff achieve this successfully.
The Government has published an online tool to allow employers and employees to check whether they should return to the workplace, although this has been temporarily removed, presumably due to the return to lockdown restrictions:
The Government’s guidance operates within the current health and safety, employment and equalities legislation. In addition, employers will need to carry out Covid-19 risk assessments, to establish what guidelines and safe systems of working to put in place. These should take place in consultation with a company’s workers or the relevant trade union. Any employer with five or more employees is required to record their risk assessments in writing. If possible, employers should publish the results of their risk assessments on their website; all businesses with over 50 employees will be expected by the Government to do so. For more information see Government Guidance on Working Safety During Coronavirus https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19
Employers should re-design workspaces to maintain the minimum required level of social distancing between employees and visitors. Staggered start times, dividers between desks, creating one way traffic flows, opening more entrances and exits or changing seating layouts in communal rooms will all help to achieve this. For more information see Government Guidance on Working Safety During Coronavirus, which has been updated for 2021: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19
Employers should investigate putting barriers in shared spaces, creating workplace shift patterns or fixed teams, and ensuring colleagues face away from each other to minimise close contact. For more information see Government Guidance on Working Safety During Coronavirus https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19
Workplaces should be cleaned more frequently and close attention should be paid to high-contact objects like door handles and keyboards. Employers should provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers at any entry and exit points. For more information see Government Guidance on Working Safety During Coronavirus https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19
Employee confidence about health and safety measures is likely to be a major factor in their willingness to return to work. An employer’s Covid-19 risk assessment will play a huge part in allaying staff fears, as well as illustrating the company’s appropriate compliance with current guidance. Employers should remember that, while following Government general advice will be necessary, this should not be seen as guaranteeing that all necessary steps have been taken. Employers should use Government guidance as a basis for ensuring, so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees. For more information see Government Guidance on Working Safety During Coronavirus https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19
A downloadable ‘Covid-19 secure’ notice is included in the Government’s guidance documents, which employers should display in their workplaces to show their employees, customers and other visitors to their workplace that they have followed Government, and other related, guidance.
- The business must have a system or means to keep abreast of government advice as it develops.
- The business must also take steps to ensure that there is good hygiene in the workplace and that working practices do not pose undue risks to employees: staff need to be encouraged to regularly wash their hands with soap, to carry and use tissues and sanitising hand gel.
- The business must increase the cleaning of hard surfaces in the workplace, particularly phones and door handles.
- The business must carry out a risk assessment to identify any higher risk groups, such as those who have a high level of contact with each other.
The business must have a system or means to keep abreast of government advice as it develops.’ In a joint statement made on 3 April 2020 between the HSE, the TUC and the CBI, the responsibility on the part of employers to comply with the relevant Public Health England guidance and the consequences of not complying with that guidance was made clear. Read the statement at https://press.hse.gov.uk/2020/04/03/coronavirus-a-joint-statement-between-hse-the-tuc-and-the-cbi/
Guidance on RIDDOR reporting related to COVID-19 can be found at
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Other useful links can be found in our downloadable guidance
Download the guidance on this topic