Government guidance on easing of the lockdown

12th May 2020

On Monday 11 May the Government set out its first steps to ease the current conditions of the lockdown.

As a result, from Wednesday 13 May the guidance on work changes with Government advising that, if possible, people should continue to work from home if they are able.  For workplaces where home working is not possible, returning to work is encouraged if it is safe to do so.  You may want to read the extensive Government guidance or share it with your clients.  There is information aimed at different types of workplace- settings, including offices and contact centres that brokers may find useful for their own operations.

Government guidance can be found here – and a summary of the key points is shown below.

Summary of Government advice

The new guidance covers eight workplace settings which are allowed to be open: from outdoor environments and construction sites to factories and takeaways. This sets out practical steps for businesses focused on five key points, which should be implemented as soon as it is practical:

  1. Work from home, if you can
  2. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, in consultation with workers or trade unions
  3. Maintain 2 metres social distancing, wherever possible
  4. Where people cannot be 2 metres apart, manage transmission risk
  5. Reinforcing cleaning processes

In particular, it says that employers need to: 

  • Make every effort to make working from home possible
  • Address the risks of COVID-19 through a risk assessment before reopening. (Those with fewer than five employees do not have to document their risk assessment).
  • Check that hand sanitiser and appropriate social distancing and instructions and means to maintain distance or protection are in place. This also applies to common parts of the premises and rest facilities etc.
  • Remember that they have a duty to consult with their employees on health and safety.
  • Consider the needs of the extremely clinically vulnerable (shielded groups) who have been strongly advised not to work from outside the home.
  • Consider reducing risk as far as possible for example by staggering start times, providing additional parking facilities or bike racks, having more than one entry point to a building, using ‘one-way systems’, not sharing desks or equipment, providing additional storage for coats and bags etc as detailed in the Government guidance.
  • Ensure that where possible remote meetings are the norm but if meeting are required social distancing is maintained.
  • Open doors and windows where possible to aid ventilation.
  • Look at the guidance on the wearing of face coverings which is not required by law, including in the workplace. If an employee chooses to wear one, it is important they are used properly, and the employee washes their hands before putting them on and taking them off.
  • Where staff are split into teams or shift groups, fix these teams or shift groups so that where contact is unavoidable, this happens between the same people.

Heath and Safety

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has produced interactive tools detailing the steps organisations need to work through:

  1. In every workplace, increasing the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning.
  2. Businesses and workplaces should make every reasonable effort to enable working from home as a first option. Where working from home is not possible, workplaces should make every reasonable effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government (keeping people 2m apart wherever possible).
  3. 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.

Further mitigating actions include:

  • increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning
  • keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
  • using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
  • using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible
  • reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others)

4. If people must work face-to-face for a sustained period with more than a small group of fixed partners, businesses will need to assess    whether the activity can safely go ahead. No one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment.

5. In their risk assessments, employers should have particular regard to whether the people doing the work are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.