Covid-19: back to work guidance

The government has published guidance for employers on how to get businesses back up and running as the country moves into the ‘stay alert’ phase of the coronavirus pandemic

The new ‘Covid-19 secure’ guidelines are intended to ensure workplaces are operating as safely as possible as a phased return to work begins for those unable to work from home.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said the information has been developed with input from firms, unions, industry bodies and the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and in consultation with Public Health England (PHE) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The new guidance covers eight workplace settings which are allowed to be open, from outdoor environments and construction sites to factories and takeaways.

The five key points, which should be implemented ‘as soon as practical’ and which cover all settings are:

1. Work from home, if you can

All reasonable steps should be taken by employers to help people work from home. But the guidance makes clear that those who cannot work from home and whose workplace has not been told to close should go to work.

2. Carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment, in consultation with workers or trade unions

This guidance operates within current health and safety employment and equalities legislation and employers will need to carry out Covid-19 risk assessments in consultation with their workers or trade unions, to establish what guidelines to put in place. If possible, employers should publish the results of their risk assessments on their website and the government expects all businesses with over 50 employees to do so.

3. Maintain two metres social distancing, wherever possible

Employers should re-design workspaces to maintain two metre distances between people by staggering start times, creating one way walk-throughs, opening more entrances and exits, or changing seating layouts in break rooms.

4. Where people cannot be two metres apart, manage transmission risk

Employers should look into putting barriers in shared spaces, creating workplace shift patterns or fixed teams minimising the number of people in contact with one another, or ensuring colleagues are facing away from each other.

5. Reinforcing cleaning processes

Workplaces should be cleaned more frequently, paying close attention to high-contact objects like door handles and keyboards. Employers should provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points.

A downloadable notice is included in the documents, which employers should display in their workplaces to show their employees, customers and other visitors to their workplace, that they have followed this guidance.

Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, said: ‘Unless people feel safe, employees won’t return, customers will stay away and the restart will falter, harming livelihoods and public services.

‘The guidance builds on the good proactive plans many firms have developed during lockdown. Excellent employee engagement, fast workplace innovation and transparency have helped many companies support livelihoods. It’s right to build on this.

‘The UK faces months of change and challenge. These guidelines will need to continue to evolve based on insight from the ground.’

The government said it will also shortly set up taskforces to work with specific 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.

Up to £14m has been made available for the HSE, equivalent to an increase of 10% of their budget, for extra call centre employees, inspectors and equipment if needed.

Eight workplace guidance documents

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