Minimising Covid risk in the office

Another national lockdown has been announced and employers are faced, once again, with having to make their work-places Covid secure, if it is not possible for staff to work at home.

This is a significant burden for employers. If an employer fails to make a workplace sufficiently secure and an employee is affected by Covid-19, it is likely that claims will result in the months and years to come. It is being reported that employees are being 'forced' back into the office by employers, which is behaviour that is in direct contravention of the legal requirements.

The government has issued a lot of advice on its website. Employers should subscribe to the updates to ensure that they are applying the most up to date advice for their workplace. There are many different work settings for which advice has been issued, but the advice which the government has indicated must be 'priority' for office-based employers is as follows:

  1. Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment. Share it with all your staff. 

  2. Clean more often. Increase how often you clean surfaces, especially those that are being touched a lot. Ask your staff and your visitors to use hand sanitiser and wash their hands frequently.

  3. Remind your visitors to wear face coverings where required to do so by law. That is especially important if your visitors are likely to be around people they do not normally meet. Some exemptions apply.

  4. Make sure everyone is social distancing. Make it easy for everyone to do so by putting up signs or introducing a one-way system that your staff and visitors can follow.

  5. Consider ventilation

  6. Take part in NHS Test and Trace by keeping a record of all staff and contractors for 21 days.

  7. Turn people with coronavirus symptoms away. If a staff member (or someone in their household) or a visitor has a persistent cough, a high temperature or has lost their sense of taste or smell, they should be isolating. Employers must not require someone who is being required to self-isolate to come to work. Any employer asking an employee to break self-isolation to work is committing an offence.

  8. Consider the mental health and wellbeing aspects of COVID-19 for yourself and others. Five more things to be aware for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments:

    • Work from home if possible. Office workers who can work effectively from home should do so.

    • Arrange work spaces to keep staff apart. Consider using barriers to separate people and introduce back-to-back or side-by-side working.

    • Reduce face-to-face meetings. Encourage calls or video conferences to avoid in-person meetings with external contacts, or colleagues outside someone's immediate team, wherever possible.

    • Reduce crowding. Consider how many people can be in each space while remaining socially distant, and consider using booking systems for desks or rooms. Reduce the maximum occupancy for lifts.

    • Communicate?and train.?Make sure all?staff and visitors?are kept up to date with the safety measures.

These are the priority actions to make your business safe during coronavirus. You should also read the full version of the guidance.

For advice on this or any other employment related matter, contact us.