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The Government’s COVID -19 Recovery Strategy

Taylor Walton Guidance - 13 May 2020

On 11 May 2020, the Government published OUR PLAN TO REBUILD: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy.  The plan sets out the Government’s roadmap to bring the UK out of Covid-19 lockdown and includes information about returning to work.

The plan states that:

  1. For the foreseeable future, workers should continue to work from home rather than at their normal physical workplace, wherever possible, on the basis that this assists in keeping Coronavirus transmission rates low.
  2. All workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open and those sectors of the economy that are allowed to be open, should be open. The plan states that food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific research in laboratories should be open and operating.
  3. As soon as practicable, workplaces should follow the new “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines.
  4. It remains the case that anyone who has symptoms, however mild, or is in a household where someone has symptoms, should not leave their house to go to work. Those people should self-isolate, as should those in their households.

The full plan can be viewed at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/our-plan-to-rebuild-the-uk-governments-covid-19-recovery-strategy

The Government has also published the “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines referred to in the plan.  There are 8 guides which cover different types of work and workplaces as follows:

  1. Construction and other outdoor work
  2. Factories, plants and warehouses
  3. Homes
  4. Labs and research facilities
  5. Offices and contact centres
  6. Restaurants offering delivery or takeaway
  7. Shops and branches
  8. Vehicles

The guidelines can be viewed at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19

The Government states that the guides are intended to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic and that employers who operate in more than one type of workplace will need to consider the content of more than one of the guides.

Although all employers will need to carefully consider the guidelines which are relevant to their business, there are some actions that all businesses will be required to take.  These include:

  • Conducting a risk assessment taking into account the relevant COVID-19 Secure guidelines.  As part of the assessment employers should have particular regard to those employees and workers who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.  For employers with more than 5 employees, this assessment must be recorded in writing.  The Government expects the results of the assessment to be shared with the workforce and employers with more than 50 employees should publish the results of the assessment on their website.  The Government has also produced a poster called “Staying COVID-19 Secure in 2020” that should be displayed in the workplace to confirm that an appropriate risk assessment has been conducted. This can be found in paragraph 1.2 “Sharing the results of your risk assessment” in each of the guides.
     
  • Consulting with staff about health and safety matters.  The guidelines state that “you can do this by listening and talking to staff about the work and how you will manage risks from COVID-19. The people who do the work are often the best people to understand the risks in the workplace and will have a view on how to work safely. Involving them in making decisions shows that you take their health and safety seriously.”  Consultation should be with a health and safety representative selected by a recognised trade union or if there isn’t one, a representative chosen by workers. As an employer, you cannot decide who the representative will be.
     
  • Taking preventative measures to reduce risks to the lowest practicable levels.  These measures will be identified as part of your risk assessment and discussed with staff as part of the consultation process.  The guidelines for each type of workplace provide guidance on appropriate preventative measures.  However, measures to be taken by all businesses will include
    • increasing the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning;
    • making every reasonable effort to enable working from home as a first option;
    • where working from home is not possible, workplaces should make every reasonable effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the Government;
    • where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full, in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between their staff.  This will possibly include increasing the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning, keeping the activity time involved as short as possible, using screens or barriers to separate people from each other, using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible and reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others); and
    • if people must work face-to-face for a sustained period with more than a small group of fixed partners, then employers will need to assess whether the activity can safely go ahead. The guidance is very clear that no-one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment.
       
  • Careful consideration must be given to maintaining social distancing throughout the working day.   Various recommendations are set out in the guides including staggered start and finish times, larger spaces between work stations or use of barriers where this is not possible, avoiding face to face meetings, reducing the number of visitors to the workplace, more storage for employee belongings, one way flows in shared spaces, minimising use of shared equipment and providing alternatives to touch-based security devices.  Employees, workers and all visitors to the workplace should be provided with clear guidance about social distancing and hygiene requirements.
     
  • Monitoring the wellbeing of people who are working from home and helping them stay connected to the rest of the workforce, especially if the majority of their colleagues are on-site.  Steps should also be taken to provide equipment for people to work at home safely and effectively and support should be given in relation to mental health and wellbeing.
     
  • Ensuring appropriate measures are in place for vulnerable workers as defined in the Government guidance.  The guidance states that “clinically extremely vulnerable individuals” should not be asked to work outside of their homes and that if “clinically vulnerable individuals” cannot work from home, they should be offered the option of the safest available on-site roles, enabling them to stay 2m away from others.   Consideration should also be given to employees living with vulnerable individuals.
     
  • Ensuring that all employees are treated fairly and equally.  The Government states that careful consideration must be given to disabled and pregnant employees in particular.
     
  • Cleaning workplaces in accordance with the recommendations set out in the guidance.
     
  • Whilst there will be no requirement for staff to wear PPE over and above what they would usually wear, employees and workers should be permitted to use face coverings if they wish to do so.
     

Once employers have had an opportunity to digest the guidelines which relate to their business, it will be necessary to undertake a risk assessment, consulting with staff and preparing information relating to the preventative measures that will be put in place.

Taylor Walton’s employment team is available to assist employers with matters relating to re-opening the workplace including risk assessments, preparation of policy documents and communications with employees.  If you have any queries relating to the issues raised in this guidance note, please contact Alec Colson in the first instance on 07711 589574 or  alec.colson@taylorwalton.co.uk.