Whilst many businesses have been given the go ahead to reopen following lockdown the team at RK Henshall are aware that things are definitely not ‘back to normal’ and for the time being we need to get used to a new ‘normal’.
Employers have a duty of care to their employees to ensure that they identify and manage any risks and continue to maintain safe working conditions. We have prepared a list of considerations to help you in this process:-
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) suggests businesses should ensure three key tests are met prior to bringing staff back into the workplace. These being:
- If people can work from home efficiently, they should continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
- Is it sufficiently safe? Gradual returns should be considered in order to test additional health and safety measures and ensure they work before encouraging the entirety of their workforce to return.
- Is it mutually agreed? Clear dialogue between employers and their people helps identify and address concerns - for instance reliance on public transport, there will need to be flexibility on both sides to accommodate these.
Develop strict cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures:
• Remind staff to wash their hands frequently
• Provide hand sanitiser/gels for staff and visitors
• Remove towels and replace with hand dryers or paper towels
• Review the frequency of cleaning and ensure that all phones/desks/keyboards etc are wiped down daily with anti-bacterial cleaner
• Consider restricting the use of shared kitchen facilities – ask staff to bring in their own drinks/food
• Make sure all employees are clear about the proper rules and policies they should follow, both in the workplace and at home, should they begin to feel unwell.
Maintain adequate social distancing, where possible.
Although government guidance for social distancing has been revised downwards it is worth remembering that recent studies suggest the chances of person to person infection increase six-fold when the space between individuals is reduced from 2 to 1 metre. Given this remind staff to maintain 2 metres between each other where possible.
Other important actions are detailed below:
• Use signs to remind staff and visitors of the importance of social distancing – if necessary use floor markings or consider operating a one way system
• Consider staggering set start, break and departure times to avoid bottlenecks
• Do not share workstations
• Restrict meetings to appointments only or consider hosting meetings only
If 2m social distancing is not possible.
• Use screens or barriers to separate people
• Consider varying working hours to reduce the number of employees in at any one time
• Consider whether the use of PPE eg, gloves, masks, etc are required
• Enable staff to work from home where at all possible
Working from home.
• Allow staff to continue to work from home if possible but ensure that they have adequate equipment and support
• Ensure that you regularly check on the physical and mental wellbeing of staff – a daily catch up is a good way to do this.
The Legal Position
It is unclear at this stage the extent to which employers could be vulnerable to legal claims from their staff that they contracted Covid 19 as a result of their companies’ actions or lack thereof. In the absence of real-life examples, it is safe to assume the usual rules apply.
These being that for a claim to be proven the employee must prove that “on the balance of probabilities”;
- The employer owed a duty of care to them (generally assumed)
- That duty was breached (i.e. the duty of care was breached – the employer either did something which put them at increased risk of infection and / or failed to take reasonable steps which would have reduced the risk)
- The breach directly led to their illness (in practice this may be hard to prove).