Updated guidance for Employers and Businesses
Following last weeks’ announcement the government has issued updated guidance which is very welcome.
I put out my summary last week of the review of the main issues and many of you found that helpful so here we go again:
Im looking at this from the view point of a business owner and an employment lawyer so I am wearing two hats.
Welcome news this week was clarification on holiday and furlough.
If you haven’t seen it the link to that specific guidance is here
In terms of the business guidance and in line with the tone of last weeks announcement the feel of this revised guidance has changed. It certainly seems more focussed on opening workplaces than it previously did (see extract below)
The link to the full updated guidance is here. As before I have pulled out the interesting bits that may give you food for thought.
This guidance will assist employers, businesses and their staff in staying open safely during coronavirus (COVID-19).
During this time of unprecedented disruption, the UK Government is not asking all businesses to shut – indeed it is important for business to carry on. Only some non-essential shops and public venues have been asked to close – see more detailed information on the businesses and venues that must close, and those that are exempt.
The government understands that employers and businesses may have concerns about how they can remain open for business safely, and so play their part in preventing the spread of the virus. All employees should be encouraged to work from home unless it is impossible for them to do so. Not everyone can work from home: certain jobs require people to travel to, from and for their work – for instance, to operate machinery, work in construction or manufacturing, or to deliver front line services. For specific settings please refer to the workplace specific guidance.
It goes on to say that :-
- businesses and workplaces should make every possible effort to enable working from home as a first option. Where working from home is not possible, workplaces should make every effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government
- members of staff who are vulnerable or extremely vulnerable, as well as individuals whom they live with, should be supported as they follow the recommendations set out in guidance on social distancing and shielding respectively
In terms of shielding -clinically extremely vulnerable people may include the following people. Disease severity, history or treatment levels will also affect who is in the group.
- Solid organ transplant recipients.
- People with specific cancers:
- people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy
- people with lung cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapy
- people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
- people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
- people having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
- people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
- People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary (COPD).
- People with rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell).
- People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection.
- Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.
- People who fall in this group should have been contacted to tell them they are clinically extremely vulnerable.
In terms of social distancing for others who are not clinically extremely vulnerable the guidance states:
As set out in the section on staying at home, you are allowed to travel for work purposes, including to provide voluntary or charitable services, where you cannot work from home.
With the exception of the organisations covered above in the section on closing certain businesses and venues, the government has not required any other businesses to close to the public – indeed, it is important for business to carry on.
Employers and employees should discuss their working arrangements, and employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home, including providing suitable IT and equipment to enable remote working.
Sometimes this will not be possible, as not everyone can work from home. Certain jobs require people to travel to, from and for their work – for instance if they operate machinery, work in construction or manufacturing, or are delivering front line services.
If you cannot work from home then you are allowed to travel for work purposes, but you should not do so if you are showing coronavirus symptoms, or if you or any of your household are self-isolating. This is consistent with advice from the Chief Medical Officer.
Employers who have people in their offices or onsite should ensure that employees are able to follow the Guidance for employers and businesses including, where possible, maintaining a two metre distance from others, and washing their hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds (or using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available).
Work carried out in people’s homes – for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, cleaners, or those providing paid-for childcare in a child’s home – can continue, provided that the worker has no coronavirus symptoms. Again, it will be important to ensure that government guidelines are followed to ensure everyone’s safety. These include practicing excellent hand and respiratory hygiene, and maintaining a two metre distance from household occupants as far as possible.
No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating because one or more family members has symptoms or where an individual has been advised to shield – unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, or to provide emergency childcare in a child’s home if a young child would be left unattended and where the worker is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to those working in other people’s houses and households.
No work should be carried out by a tradesperson, cleaner or nanny who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild, or where someone in their household has symptoms.
Further sector specific guidance which sets out different scenarios as examples (including tradespeople working in people’s homes, construction, outdoor businesses).
As set out in the section on closing certain businesses and venues, the government has published guidance on which organisations are covered by this requirement. Advice for employees of these organisations on employment and financial support is available at gov.uk/coronavirus.
At all times, workers should follow the guidance on self-isolation if they or anyone in their household shows symptoms.
- 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. Potential mitigating actions are set out in these illustrative workplace examples
I did send these links out last week but for example the office guidance can be found here:
Im going to go through this to finish our workplace risk assessment this weekend so I may update you further on how I get on next week.
- staff who are unwell with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) should not travel to or attend the workplace.
- staff may be feeling anxious about coming to work and also about impacts on livelihood. Workplaces should ensure staff are fully briefed and appropriately supported at this time
- any member of staff who develops symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) (a new, continuous cough and/or a high temperature) should be sent home and stay at home for 7 days from onset of symptoms. If the member of staff lives in a household where someone else is unwell with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) then they must stay at home in line with the stay at home guidance
- employees will need your support to adhere to the recommendation to stay at home to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) to others
- employees should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds more frequently and catch coughs and sneezes in tissues
- frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products
- those who follow advice to stay at home will be eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP) from the first day of their absence from work
- employers should use their discretion concerning the need for medical evidence for certification for employees who are unwell. This will allow GPs to focus on their patients
- if evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online, and those who live with someone that has symptoms can get a note from the NHS website
So It seems generally there is a passing of the risk back to employers now to make sure that if you do require your employees to attend work that it is safe to do so.
My main advice piece is to interact, consult and be transparent with your employees (or representatives) if you are not able to accommodate working from home.
We are having lots of employee enquiries at the moment which centre around the following issues:-
- How can I get to work safely?
- What about my children?
- Im too scared to go to work but Im not shielding?
- What will I get paid if I don’t go to work?
- Can I be dismissed?
- Would it be fair if I were and can I bring a claim?
- Can I be made redundant whilst on furlough?
This is not an exhaustive list but these are the most common enquiries – I will provide the answers to these questions on an update next week.
As always please take specific advice and consult the relevant websites Gov.uk and HSE for further guidance if necessary.
If you are unsure why not consult an industry body also or speak to other businesses and pool ideas
The more we communicate and discuss this the more likely we are to get it right
- Please note – this guidance is not intended to be taken as legal advice – for individual situations you will need to take specific legal advice.
- The information in this guide is correct as of 15th May 2020.
- All information provided should be read alongside the relevant Government Guidance at Gov.uk.
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