The Government has issued guidance on creating a Covid-19 secure workplace across several industries. For each industry, the guidance on returning to work falls under the same sections and general headings, with the same objectives. Each separate guidance document contains slightly varied steps to take in each area, depending on the requirements for that industry, but the overall intention and advice remains the same across all industries.
We have given a summary here of all the sections covered, and given our interpretation of what this means for workplaces. The Government guidance on ensuring that your workplace is Covid-19 secure covers the following areas;
Please note: The advice and guidance in this site represents Baker Stuart’s opinion only. Each user assumes full responsibility for the usage of any information published on this site. Please see our detailed disclaimer here.
Before bringing employees back into the workplace, there is a lot that needs to be done. The first and most important stage is to create and carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment across the environment to identify any potential hazards or areas of concern. The Government have provided a risk assessment template and also a template for a poster that can be displayed in the workplace to demonstrate that this has been done.
The Government’s over-riding message is that anyone who can work from home should do so. But this is not always possible, and organisations need to decide who needs to return to work, and who can continue to work from home. This is key to ensuring that the workplace can be Covid-19 secure, and can accommodate the right staff. We recommend that employers are very robust in deciding whether someone really needs to be back in the office – start with a default that staff should continue to work from home if possible unless there is an overriding business need for them to be in the office.
If staff need to return to the office, then there are considerations that need to be made for certain groups of people. It is also going to be key to note that anyone showing any symptoms should immediately return home and self-isolate. Further, although not specifically mentioned in the government guidance, we recommend that you eliminate as much as possible any cross-team physical interaction and limit teams to just their areas of the office to restrict the spread of possible outbreaks.
How to socially distance in your own workplace is likely to cause the greatest complexity in the return to work process. The Government does acknowledge that keeping 2M apart is not always possible or practical, but the guidance is designed to help employers do everything possible to comply, in order to keep staff safe. In order to create a Covid-19 secure workplace, an organisation needs to consider how to socially distance in communal areas, arriving safely at work, handwashing or sanitising stations in the workplace, and how to maintain social distancing during meetings or other face to face gatherings. One suggestion is to limit teams to meeting among small groups, so as to limit the exposure. It is going to be vital that all workplaces provide sufficient protective equipment for relevant employees and sanitising products for all employees at all times.
Companies will need to decide whether or not they need to engage with people face to face when they return to work in a Covid-19 secure way that safeguards their employees. While some of the visitors to our workplaces are going to be beyond our control, companies can take some steps to limit the risk from customers and visitors to the office. For example, deliveries can be left in a designated area, with no contact. Where contractors need to attend a workplace, the same arrival and social distancing measures can be applied to them, as to the employees. For shops or other customer facing environments, the Government guidelines set out other measures that can be taken in those environments to assist in maintaining social distancing, and keeping both the staff and the customers safe.
Before returning to work, a thorough cleaning process needs to take place, to ensure there is no chance of a lingering infection and to ensure that the workplace is Covid-19 secure. Once people return to work, care needs to be taken to ensure that all staff have access to handwashing and sanitising stations, and that there are procedures in place for using communal areas, such as bathrooms and changing rooms. Some suggestions have been to ensure that there should be only one person using facilities at any one time, and that regular cleaning and sanitising should be carried out during the day.
A Covid-19 secure workplace will need to consider having PPE available when employees return to work. PPE covers everything from high-vis jackets, specialist footwear, hard hats and other job-specific requirements, to the current need for face coverings and gloves. Existing PPE used for the job should still be used and the cross-contamination and hygiene of these items should be considered carefully. The government official guidance states that additional PPE is not beneficial and risk should be managed through other measures such as increased hygiene and social distancing. However, it has been indicated that face coverings may not actually protect you from the virus, but that it can protect other people, in the case that you may have the virus but be asymptomatic. Gloves can be useful when handling products but care should be taken to change them or dispose of them regularly to prevent cross-contamination.
Employees and staff need to be managed upon a return to work to ensure that they understand, and are updated with any changes to the Government guidance and steps being taken to protect them. By looking at the way the shifts are arranged, and whether people need to move between locations, decisions can be made to change the way that we work in order to reduce contact where it is not absolutely necessary.
For many people, contactless deliveries have become commonplace. Upon a return to work, some organisations will need to receive and send out deliveries within their Covid-19 secure framework. For example, when deliveries are being made to a shop or factory, they still require people to unload them or receive them. In these cases, adequate thought should be given to ways in which the contact can be minimised and precautions taken to avoid any spread of the virus at this point.
The official guidance set out by the UK Government on how to return to work securely can be accessed below for each specific sector covered;
The content contained in this site is intended to be general in nature and should not be considered to be professional advice. Further, Government and medical advice regarding the pandemic is regularly changing and evolving. In all cases you should consult with a professional relevant to your particular situation before making any decisions. BakerStuart Limited is not liable and does not accept any responsibility or liability with regard to any action or abstention from action related to information published on this site.
Each user assumes full responsibility for the usage of information published on this site. You must review the official government guidance and be sure that it is properly understood and that any actions or decisions you take are relevant and appropriate for your particular circumstances before any changes are made. A full and detailed risk assessment is vital.