Now in the grips of lockdown 3.0 the majority of workers in the UK are being told to work from home if they can. But where this is not possible, some employees are continuing to travel to their place of work. In these situations, it is vital that businesses closely follow COVID-19 secure workplace guidelines. We also consider how these guidelines may change in the coming months to incorporate advances in testing and the vaccination programme.
Recommendations for working securely during lockdown 3
The national lockdown guidance states that you may only leave your home for work if you cannot reasonably work from home. Guidance also advises employers to take all possible steps to enable employees to work from home and to enable remote working. So, this should be the first step employers taking when it comes to working securely during coronavirus.
But where home working is not possible, and your business is allowed to remain open under national lockdown rules, it is vital that you follow COVID-19 secure guidelines.
The government have created 14 different guides covering different types of work. Refer to the guide which is relevant to your industry for information on the steps and measures you need to put in place to enable secure working during lockdown 3.
Can employers run their own COVID-19 testing programme for employees in lockdown 3?
The NHS test and trace system is available to individuals who display symptoms of Coronavirus. But employers must not direct staff to this system if they are not showing symptoms. Testing capacity is limited and those who show symptoms need to be prioritised.
Government advice states that employers can provide their own private provision (separate to NHS test and trace) to run a testing programme for their staff.
- It is voluntary not mandatory for employers to do this
- If employers are considering or already running their own testing programme, they must meet certain legal obligations and adhere to best practice
Refer to gov.uk for full guidance relating to private testing provision provided by employers
Will routine employee testing, vaccination or other regulations be introduced in the coming months?
As with many things linked to the COVID-19 pandemic it is likely too early to predict what new regulations will be introduced relating to COVID secure workplace guidance.
However, there is news of a new government scheme aimed at testing workers without symptoms who cannot work from home. The aim of the scheme is to deploy rapid testing in the workplace. It is initially aimed at those operating in the food, manufacturing, energy and retail sectors, and within the public sector including job centres, transport networks, and the military. This initial workplace scheme is set to help inform further rollout of the rapid testing technology so we may see routine employee testing for COVID-19 in the future.
Vaccination is currently following an agreed priority list determined by the JCVI. Vaccination is not mandatory, and individuals are free to choose whether they take up the offer of the vaccine when their time comes. So, it is unlikely that vaccination in the workplace will become mandatory. We may however see some sectors, such as care homes, look to implement more stringent policies when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations.
The importance of employers following COVID secure workplace guidance
We wrote recently about the importance that employers must place on complying with COVID-19 secure workplace guidance and the obligation to meet their duty of care to their employees. There is a risk that employers may face personal injury claims from employees relating to COVID-19. These claims could be either:
- Directly linked to COVID-19 – i.e., that an employer did not take all practicable steps to reduce risk of COVID-infection to employees, as such that the employee then contracted the COVID-19 virus.
- Indirectly linked to COVID-19 – issues linked to home working stations causing physical issues, or psychological issues linked to home working or significant changes to the work employees have been carrying out during the pandemic.
It is also important to start to focus on and plan now for the return-to-work once vaccines start to rollout to the wider population. Even with the vaccine it is expected that some COVID controls will need to remain in place for a significant amount of time. It is a situation that will require continued management, risk assessment, risk management and compliance with government guidance.
Ultimately, employers must keep a close eye on government guidance, factor in any changes to the guidance into their COVID risk assessments and follow up with appropriate actions to reflect the most recent guidance and keep records of how they are complying with the guidance.
At Anthony Jones we appreciate that this is a very difficult time for all businesses, whether you are able to operate during the pandemic or have had to shut your doors during lockdown. If you have any questions about an existing business insurance policy or are reviewing your business insurance needs at this time do not hesitate to get in touch with our team of friendly experts who will be more than happy to help. Contact us on 020 8290 9080 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org