The government has put out a dizzying amount of advice to help businesses get back on their feet following the 2020 lockdowns. This has proved particularly challenging for hospitality businesses. Government advice suggests that those running hospitality businesses take the following action as a matter of priority:
1. Complete a health and safety risk assessment that includes the risk from COVID-19
Complete a risk assessment, considering the reasonable adjustments needed for staff and customers with disabilities. Share it with all staff and keep it updated.
2. Provide adequate ventilation
Businesses should make sure there is a supply of fresh air to indoor spaces where there are people present. This can be natural ventilation through opening windows, doors and vents, mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, or a combination of both. Poorly ventilated spaces in the premises should be identified and steps taken to improve fresh air flow in these areas. In some places, a CO2 monitor can help identify if the space is poorly ventilated.
3. Clean more often
It is especially important to clean surfaces that people touch a lot. Staff and customers should be asked to use hand sanitiser and to clean their hands frequently.
4. Turn away people with COVID-19 symptoms
Staff members or customers should self-isolate if they have a high temperature, a new continuous cough or a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste. They must also self-isolate if they:
- have tested positive for COVID-19
- live in a household with someone who has symptoms, unless they are exempt from self-isolation
- have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace.
Note that if an employer knows that a worker is legally required to self-isolate, they must not be allowed to come to work. It is an offence to do this.
5. Enable people to check in at the venue
Businesses are no longer legally required to collect customer contact details, but doing so will support NHS Test and Trace to contact those who may have been exposed to COVID-19 so that they can book a test. Businesses can enable people to check in to the venue by displaying an NHS or QR code poster. But note that businesses do not have to ask people to check in or turn people away if they refuse. However, if a business does choose to display a QR code, they should also have a system in place to record contact details for people who want to check in but do not have the app.
6. Communicate and train
Keep all workers, contractors and visitors up to date on how the business is using and updating safety measures.
The significance for businesses and employers is that they have a duty to their staff in relation to health and safety matters. This is likely to prove an increasingly difficult balancing act in the coming months. For example, businesses may have to decide whether they want to make it mandatory for their employees to have a COVID vaccination as a condition of coming to work but there are a large number of employment law concerns in relation to this in addition to those connected to health. We are already starting to see cases on COVID related matters before the Employment Tribunal being brought by employees and this is only likely to increase. Before taking any significant steps or seeking to impose new working conditions, employers should consider their policies and procedures carefully and whether taking specialist advice is appropriate.
To discuss this or any other employment matter, contact us.