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Employment law for employees & Employment law for employers

Coronavirus: Employer’s Guide to re-opening the Workplace

As the government begins to ease the lockdown restrictions in a bid to get the economy moving again, new guidance has been published to guide employers as to how they can get their employees back to work safely. Our Employment team looks at the obligations of employers when re-opening the workplace.

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As the government begins to ease the lockdown restrictions in a bid to get the economy moving again, new guidance has been published to guide employers as to how they can get their employees back to work safely.

The government has emphasised that those who can work from home should continue to do so, but as those businesses which cannot operate remotely return to work employers have a duty to provide a safe working environment for their employees.

Employers must carry out a coronavirus risk assessment and consider publishing their risk assessments on their websites, and the government has stated that those with 50 or more employees must do so.

A coronavirus risk assessment must:

  • identify workplace activities or situations which might cause transmission of coronavirus;
  • think about who could be at risk;
  • decide the likelihood of an individual’s exposure to coronavirus; and
  • act to remove the activity risking transmission. If this is not possible, steps should be outlined to control the risk.

The government has outlined several practical steps for employers to consider including:

  • maintaining two metres’ social distancing where possible including redesigning workspaces if necessary;
  • where social distancing is not possible the risk of transmission should be manged so erect barriers/screens in shared spaces, stagger start times, open more entrances and exits and provide PPE;
  • ensure that workplaces are cleaned more frequently, with extra care taken to sanitise high-contact objects like door handles, keyboards and lift buttons. Handwashing or hand sanitisers should be provided at entry and exit points to buildings.

It is important that employers communicate and consult with their employees regarding a return to work so that the relationship of mutual trust and confidence is not broken and employees must feel able to return to work confident that their workplace is as safe as it can be against the threat of coronavirus.

Some staff may be reluctant to use public transport to commute to the workplace and employers should seek to understand the reason/s for this reticence especially if it arises from underlying health conditions and/or shielding more vulnerable members of the household.

Our specialist Employment Team are offering a free 30 minute Coronavirus Employment Advice Helpline and we can help you consider the options available to you and your business.

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Alastair Ward-Booth

Trainee Solicitor

alastair.ward-booth@collyerbristow.com