Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic the government has provided guidance to employers aimed at ensuring the safety of workers. For example, during the lockdown, businesses have been receiving regular updates on how to keep workplaces Covid-19 secure. Since March 2020, to safeguard against the threat of the virus, work from home guidance has been.
The next stage in the government’s roadmap is the removal of all legal limits on social contact. The emergence of new variants may thwart the government’s plans, but there is optimism that there will be a return to (some form of) normality and office life on 21 June.
Joseph Lappin, Partner and Head of Employment offers expert insight to HR Review into five things employers need to do to meet their health and safety objectives.
1. Business travel: Protecting your staff
Many employers will be worried about potential compensation claims from employees who travel on business in their roles regularly and contract COVID-19.
However, employers should not expect to face a tidal wave of covid-19 claims and we are unlikely to see an avalanche of negligence claims being pursued by employees who regularly undertake business travel. Such claims are notoriously difficult to pursue successfully.
However, employers should protect their staff by:
- Conducting a risk assessment for every trip;
- Documenting the necessary steps they have taken in order to provide a safe system of travel for staff;
- Ensuring that staff are only travelling with reputable tour operators;
- Covering the costs for a clean and safe hotel;
- Empowering staff with adequate information about where they’re traveling and who they’re meeting.
2. Common law: Knowing where you stand as an employer
There are several health and safety duties all employers have under common law. These duties applied before Covid-19 and will continue to apply during the pandemic and after it.
- Have a duty to take reasonable care for the health and safety of their employees;
- Must provide and maintain a safe place of work and a safe system of work;
- Can, in certain circumstances, be liable for the negligent acts of their employees.
- Make sure you know where you stand as an employer.
3. Introduce additional safety measures
Some staff will have concerns about returning to the workplace in June and over the summer. In particular many will be worried about catching COVID-19.
- Ask staff if they have concerns about returning to their workplaces.
- Take all necessary steps to ensure that staff feel safe at work.
- Reassure staff by explaining how the workplace has been made Covid-secure.
4. Written policy for larger teams
It is the responsibility of all employers with a workforce of five or more to have a written health and safety policy.
This is a statutory duty both pre-pandemic and is also vital when it comes to making a workplace COVID-19 secure.
An employer also has a duty to bring the written statement to the attention of all its employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
5. Health and safety duties
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 imposes statutory obligations on employers. Employers have a general duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all their employees.
This means that employers must seek the views of and consult with their employees on matters concerning health and safety at work.
Covid-19 is impacting individuals and companies around the world in an unprecedented way. We have collected insights here to help you navigate the key legal issues you may be facing at this time.
You can find further information regarding our expertise, experience and team on our Employment page.
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