More and more businesses are reopening at last. This is very good news for the economy as a whole, but also for business owners and their staff that depend on them. However, the shift brings with it some concern surrounding the responsibilities employers now face in regard to how they protect their employees during a public health pandemic. This unchartered territory raises a lot of questions about what employers need to be doing differently, and how they can do it effectively.
Luckily enough, the Government has produced a series of guidance documents which provide information on the appropriate steps that employers should be taking to protect employees from COVID-19.
There are currently 12 separate guidance documents, each one focused on specific industries or other categories. They are:
Many businesses will find that at least two of these categories are applicable to their business. For example, an employer may operate an office and a factory or warehouse. This will mean that some employers may need to work from more than one of the guides.
Regardless of what industry you are in, there are 5 principles that employers should be following to protect employees as they come back to work.
1. Risk Assessment
You must carry out a COVID-19 Risk Assessment. In completing your risk assessment you will be looking to identify what work activities might cause transmission of the virus, the likelihood of such a transmission, who is likely to be at risk and formulate a plan to minimise this risk. Once completed, it will be important that you share the results of your risk assessment with staff and staff representatives and make it easily available to them anytime. The BrightPay Connect employee app is perfectly suited to this.
2. Working From Home
Employers need to take all reasonable steps to continue to allow employees to work from home. As an employer, you should allow someone to work from home even if you wouldn't in normal circumstances have agreed to a request for remote working. If it is at all possible for the work to be done in an effective way, even if it's not ideal, even if there are some tasks that can't be done, employers should be doing everything they can to facilitate remote working for the foreseeable future.
3. Workplace Hygiene
Where it is not possible for employees to work from home and they are coming into the workplace, employers will need to put in place appropriate cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures. Suggestions put forward in the guidance include:
4. Social Distancing
You will also need to ensure that social distancing of 2 metres is in place wherever possible. This will require lots of signage and established one-way systems. Consider placing tape on floors to mark out 2 meter boundaries, make sure that rest areas are appropriately cordoned off so that people aren't encouraged to sit too close together, and limit the number of employees allowed in common areas, such as a staff kitchen, at a time.
5. Personal Protective Equipment
Of course there are going to be some jobs where social distancing can’t be achieved. In these situations, additional steps should be taken to manage the transmission risk via the use of personal protective equipment. These steps may include the use of gloves, face masks, perspex guards and staggering start/break times.
As mentioned earlier, once you have completed your risk assessment and you have decided on the preventative measures you are taking, it will be important that you communicate these changes effectively with your employees and your employee representatives or union representatives.
The BrightPay team are holding regular webinars to share with you all news relating to HMRC updates, what employers need to know and how you can make sure you’re complying with best practices at all times. Click here to watch our previous COVID-19 webinars on-demand, where we cover everything from important COVID-19 payroll updates to return to work government policies and more.