In all cases, the health and safety of your employees must be a priority. This is not only their physical safety, but their mental health must be considered too.
Where you employ staff, who are known to be clinically vulnerable (have received a letter or text from their GP for example), you should do all you can to support working from home or in a COVID safe environment. A COVID safe environment is one which has enabled social distancing and implemented the appropriate mitigation. Key to this process is the use of a personal health risk assessment and a work environment risk assessment.
Employees Returning to Work
As your employees return to work, you should undertake a COVID-19 risk assessment in consultation with your employees and trade unions and if you employ over 50 workers you are expected to publish it on your website.
You need to consider the two-metre social distancing rule and it should be enforced wherever possible to manage the transmission risk. Where you cannot provide two-metre social distancing you can seek to provide 1 metre + arrangements with appropriate mitigation such as screens and additional PPE. It is important to keep exposure to riskier activities as short as possible. You should consider the use of screens or barriers to separate people from each other and use back-to-back or side-to-side working rather than face-to-face. Look into the option of the use of ‘fixed teams or partnering’ so each person works with only a few others. It is also important to reinforce cleaning processes and good hand hygiene.
Legislation does provide statutory protection for employees who reasonably believe there to be serious and imminent danger and who refuse to undertake duties or attend the workplace as a result. What is reasonable will depend on the facts in each case. It is very important you have an open dialogue with employees who raise concerns or those you know could be impacted by their workplace environment. Always record these meetings in writing to accurately reflect the conversations.
For tips about a COVID Secure Workplace check out our friends at Grounded Safety.