Employment Law/Health & Safety Newsletter
Return to work after lockdown.
What steps should we take to protect the health and safety of our employees in the workplace?
It goes without saying that the impact of COVID-19 has been unprecedented (a word which has become entirely overused in the last few weeks but is nevertheless still accurate!) and research on how to limit the spread and treat those infected is very much still developing. This understandably makes it difficult for employers to assess and put in place appropriate measures.
Nevertheless, under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, employers must conduct a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of all of the work activities carried out by their employees, including homeworkers, to identify hazards and assess the degree of risk. Before any return, therefore, an employer should carry out this assessment and take measures to mitigate any risks identified. This should be reviewed regularly.
Employers are legally required to provide employees with specific information about health and safety risks and the measures to prevent and protect against those risks. Our view is that, employers should think about further steps they could take to reassure and communicate with employees, for example by setting up employee-led committees or forums to discuss, practically speaking, what measures can be taken. As a minimum, employers should provide a point of contact for employees so they can discuss any concerns.
If employers are able to agree a safe system of work with staff or staff representatives (including trade unions) that is likely to assist significantly with returning staff to the workplace and defending any claims that the employer is being unreasonable.
Managing ongoing health and safety risks is likely to include the following:
1. Rearranging desks and workstations to ensure that these are at least two metres apart and/or not facing each other.
2. Ending hot desk arrangements to avoid staff sharing equipment.
3. Limiting the number of people who are in the office at any one time. This could include, for instance, splitting a team in two and requiring each team to attend the office on alternate weeks or swap mid-week.
4. Providing face masks for employees to wear and providing information on how they should be used depending on Government guidance on this.
5. Using floor markings to mark two metres in areas which employees use frequently, including, for instance, the entrance and exit to the building.
6. Allowing employees who travel in on public transport to have more flexible start and finish times to allow them to avoid any rush hour.
6. Restricting employees from attending non-essential meetings or work social events.
7. Providing an area for employees to go if they are presenting with coronavirus symptoms at work.
8. Providing access to handwash, hand sanitiser and reminding employees of the recommended hygiene measures.
9. Temporarily closing any common areas where social distancing will be difficult to achieve.
10. Increasing deep cleaning of the office, particularly in relation to surfaces that are regularly touched, such as door handles, taps, doors and light switches.
Employers should also continue to consider how to protect the mental health of their employees and provide guidance to managers on how to assist and when to escalate concerns. For instance, if the employer has an Employee Assistance Programme available this should be highlighted to them and employees should be encouraged to keep in touch with their team members, particularly those who have to remain at home whilst the rest of the workforce is returning.
Job Retention Scheme
Chancellor extends furlough scheme until October
The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will remain open until the end of October, the Chancellor announced on Tuesday 12 May 2020). Where he announced the following:
- Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will continue until end of October
- Furloughed workers across UK will continue to receive 80% of their current salary, up to £2,500
- New flexibility will be introduced from August to get employees back to work and boost economy
The furlough scheme will be extended by a further four months with workers continuing to receive 80% of their current salary.
From the start of August, furloughed workers will be able to return to work part-time with employers being asked to pay a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed staff.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, today announced the first easing of lockdown condition in Scotland which are due to come into effect on Thursday 28th May. Although, she stated clearly this depended on the “R” number remaining under control.
The government published a lengthy document that you can see here,https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/strategy-plan
Life after Coronavirus…if we have learned anything during this pandemic it is:
- Use different sources of evidence. It is only by looking at all the sources available that we can start to build the bigger picture.
- Take the time to collect evidence. Although there may be a need to act quickly, even in a disaster, we still need to use all evidence available to inform our decisions to make informed decisions on how we should act.
- Be aware of the problem before you start acting on the resolution. By having a clear understanding of the issue and its impact/effect we can find solutions that are both efficient and effective.
- What do we know (and not know) right now? With a clear understanding of all the info we have then we can decide what additional info we need. Do this in a systematic way to ensure anything relevant is not missed.
- Approaches by interested parties. Although others interested in the issues is great. Beware of individuals who are obsessed with or fanatical about certain methodology. It’s essential to remain critical and not confuse what you like or know about the resolution with its worth and significance.
- Its ok to be doubtful. We need to keep asking questions to evaluate doubt with our own and others’ understanding of evidence. We are told by Alex Andreou that “scepticism is a tool of reason, not of denial”. We would do well to remember our biases can distort information or hide it in plain sight.
- Comparisons are only useful if they are valid. It can mislead you rather than help you if comparisons made between your situation and another that looks similar. Seek further clarification that the two are the same.
- Review and plan for next time. Make best use of what you have to hand, however learn from what you have experienced and consider what could be done better/differently next time and WRITE IT DOWN!
Health and Safety – Coronavirus:
- It is imperative, during Coronavirus that companies continue to ensure that health and safety, injuries and sickness are dealt with in compliance with regulations.
- Risk assessments should be updated regularly and in a timely manner as we receive COVID -19 information. LBJ Consulting can assist you and your company with this and provide a Risk Assessment for COVID – 19.
Contact LBJ Consultants on 07375 097444 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for advice on any of these issues.
Is your business is thinking about making redundancies?
Do you know how to carry out the perfect redundancy process, avoiding tribunals and appeals?
- Do you know to create and who should be in the selection pool?
- Do you know what selection criteria to use?
- Do you know how to deal with employees’ challenges to their score?
- Do you know how to go through a proper and fair consultation process?
We have added a fact sheet to our web page that gives some advice over how the redundancy process should be conducted. If the answer is no to these questions raised above then we can help, call us on 07375 097443 or e-mail email@example.com