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New government guidance to help Brits get back to work

The UK government has launched new ‘COVID-19 secure’ guidance to help employers get their businesses back up and running and workplaces operating as safely as possible. The guidance follows the steps the Prime Minister set out to beat COVID-19 and restart the economy.

Developed following a national consultation with around 250 stakeholders and input from trade unions, industry bodies, Public Health England and more, the guidelines present best practice on the safest ways of working, giving people the confidence they need to return to work.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “This guidance provides a framework to get the UK back to work in a way that is safe for everyone. These are practical steps to enable employers to identify risks that COVID-19 creates and to take pragmatic measures to mitigate them.

“As we are able to reopen new sectors of the economy, we will continue our collaborative approach to working, with a wide range of stakeholders, to provide guidance for additional workplaces.

The new guidance breaks down into eight workplace settings which are allowed to be open, including:

  • Construction and other outdoor work
  • Factories, plants and warehouses
  • Labs and research facilities
  • Offices and contact centres
  • Other people’s homes
  • Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery
  • Shops and branches
  • Vehicles

The guidance focuses on five key points, which businesses should implement as soon as possible:

1. Work from home if you can

People who are unable to work from home can now go to work. But the government’s message is clear: if you can work from home, you should, and businesses should take steps to help employees do this. For tips, go to point 4.

2. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment

Employers will need to carry out COVID-19 risk assessments with their workers or trade unions to establish what guidelines to put in place. They should then publish these on the company website.

The Health and Safety Executive has guidance for business on how to manage risk and risk assessment at work, along with specific advice to help control the risk of coronavirus in workplaces.

3. Maintain two-metre social distancing wherever possible

Employers should redesign workspaces to maintain the two-metre distancing rule. For example:

  • creating one-way walk-throughs
  • opening more entrances and exits, or
  • changing seating layouts in break rooms

If it’s not possible to make the changes above, employers can:

  • stagger employees’ start times
  • request that staff change into uniforms on-site and wash them on-site
  • introduce alternatives to touch-based security devices (such as keypads) and cleaning workstations and shared equipment and machinery where possible.

For more guidance, visit the ‘social distancing at work’ section for your workplace setting.

4. Manage the risk of transmission where the two-metre rule cannot be applied

Employers will need to look for alternative ways to limit the risk of transmission for employees who can’t stay two metres apart in their workplace. Ways to do this include:

  • putting barriers in shared spaces
  • staggering start times, or
  • making sure colleagues are facing away from each other

5. Reinforcing cleaning processes

Employers should clean their workplaces more frequently, especially high-contact objects like door handles and keyboards. They should also provide hand-washing facilities or hand sanitisers at all entrances and exits.

The government has created a downloadable notice for employers to display in their workplaces to make both employees and visitors aware they are following the official guidance.

 

Jonathan Geldart, Director General of the Institute of Directors, commented:

“The guidance applies to businesses currently open. This also includes guidance for shops which we believe may be in a position to begin a phased reopening from 1 June at the earliest.

“The government will develop guidance for other sectors that are not currently open and publish this ahead of their reopening to give those businesses time to plan. It will also shortly set up taskforces to work with these sectors to develop safe ways for them to open at the earliest point at which it is safe to do so, as well as pilot re-openings to test businesses’ ability to adopt the guidelines.”

For more information on government financial support for businesses during COVID-19, click here.

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