UpdateEssential Employer Guidance for Step 1 (13 May 2020)

13th May 2020
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The UK Government has now set out it’s COVID-19 recovery strategy, and Step 1 will apply from Wednesday 13 May 2020 in England.

GUIDANCE FOR ALL EMPLOYERS

The primary guidance for employers remains the same, that for the foreseeable future, workers should continue to work from home rather than their normal physical workplace, wherever possible.

The main change is that all workers who cannot work from home can now travel to work if their workplace is open. This has raised many questions and concerns and the government has published workplace specific guidance, which we summarise below.

All employers must assess and manage the risks of COVID-19. As an employer, you also have a legal responsibility to protect workers and others from risks to their health and safety.

A risk assessment must be undertaken that addresses COVID-19 specifically. This does not mean that huge amounts of paperwork must be compiled, rather sensible measures should be identified to protect workers. Where there are fewer than 5 workers, the assessment does not need to be in writing.

In addition to their responsibility to protect their workers, employers also have a duty to consult their workers by listening and talking to them about work and the risks of COVID-19. You must consult with the health and safety representative selected by a recognised trade union or, if there isn’t one, a representative chosen by workers.

Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity is necessary for the business to operate, and if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between their staff.

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).

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

In an emergency, for example, an accident, fire or break-in, people do not have to stay 2m apart if it would be unsafe. People involved in the provision of assistance to others should pay particular attention to sanitation measures immediately afterwards including washing hands.

Where you are already using PPE in your work activity to protect against non-COVID-19 risks, you should continue to do so.

In addition, all employers should provide support for workers around mental health and wellbeing.

The following guidance applies to all workplaces:

Coming to work and leaving work:

  • Staggering arrival and departure times at work to reduce crowding into and out of the workplace, taking account of the impact on those with protected characteristics.
  • Providing additional parking or facilities such as bike racks to help people drive or cycle to work where possible.
  • Limiting passengers in corporate vehicles, for example, work minibuses. This could include leaving seats empty.
  • Reducing congestion, for example, by having more entry points to the workplace.
  • Using markings and introducing one-way flow at entry and exit points.
  • Providing handwashing facilities, or hand sanitiser where not possible, at entry and exit points.
  • Providing alternatives to touch-based security devices such as keypads.

Moving around buildings, worksites, branches and stores:

  • Reducing movement by discouraging non-essential trips within buildings and sites, for example, restricting access to some areas, encouraging use of radios or telephones, where permitted, and cleaning them between use.
  • Reducing job and location rotation, for example, assigning workers to specific floors or keeping temporary personnel dedicated to one site.
  • Introducing more one-way flow routes through buildings through signage that clearly indicate the direction of flow.
  • Reducing maximum occupancy for lifts, providing hand sanitiser for the operation of lifts and encouraging use of stairs wherever possible.
  • Making sure that people with disabilities are able to access lifts.
  • Regulating use of high traffic areas including corridors, lifts and staircases to maintain social distancing.

Meetings:

  • Using remote working tools to avoid in-person meetings.
  • Only absolutely necessary participants should attend meetings and should maintain 2m separation throughout.
  • Avoiding transmission during meetings, for example, from sharing pens and other objects.
  • Providing hand sanitiser in meeting rooms.
  • Holding meetings outdoors or in well-ventilated rooms whenever possible.
  • For areas where regular meetings take place, using floor signage to help people maintain social distancing.

Common areas:

  • Staggering break times to reduce pressure on break rooms or places to eat.
  • Using safe outside areas for breaks.
  • Creating additional space by using other parts of the workplace or building that have been freed up by remote working.
  • Installing screens to protect staff in receptions or similar areas.
  • Providing packaged meals or similar to avoid opening staff canteens.
  • Encouraging workers to bring their own food.
  • Reconfiguring seating and tables to maintain spacing and reduce face-to-face interactions.
  • Encouraging staff to remain on-site and, when not possible, maintaining social distancing while off-site.
  • Regulating use of locker rooms, changing areas and other facility areas to reduce concurrent usage.
  • Encouraging storage of personal items and clothing in personal storage spaces, for example lockers, during working hours.

Managing your customers, visitors and contractors:

  • Encouraging visits via remote connection or remote working for visitors where this is an option.
  • Limiting the number of visitors at any one time.
  • Determining if schedules for essential services and contractor visits can be revised to reduce interaction and overlap between people, for example, carrying out services at night.
  • Maintaining a record of all visitors, if this is practical.
  • Establishing host responsibilities relating to COVID19 and providing any necessary training for people who act as hosts for visitors.

Cleaning the workplace:

  • Frequent cleaning of work areas and equipment between uses, using your usual cleaning products.
  • Frequent cleaning of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, such as buckets, site equipment and control panels, and making sure there are adequate disposal arrangements.
  • Clearing workspaces and removing waste and belongings from the work area at the end of a shift.
  • Sanitisation of all hand tools, controls, machinery and equipment after use.
  • Providing additional handwashing facilities, for example, pop-ups, particularly on a large site or where there are significant numbers of personnel on site.
  • Using signs and posters to build awareness of good handwashing technique, the need to increase handwashing frequency, avoid touching your face and to cough or sneeze into a tissue which is binned safely, or into your arm if a tissue is not available.
  • Providing regular reminders and signage to maintain hygiene standards.
  • Providing hand sanitisers in multiple locations in addition to washrooms.
  • Setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets to ensure they are kept clean and social distancing is achieved as much as possible.
  • Enhancing cleaning for busy areas.
  • Special care should be taken for cleaning of portable toilets. Providing more waste facilities and more frequent rubbish collection.
  • Where possible, providing paper towels as an alternative to hand dryers in handwashing facilities.
  • Checking whether you need to service or adjust ventilation systems, for example, so that they do not automatically reduce ventilation levels due to lower than normal occupancy levels.
  • Most air conditioning systems do not need adjustment, however where systems serve multiple buildings or you are unsure, advice should be sought from your heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) engineers or advisers.
  • Positive pressure systems can operate as normal.

Workforce Management:

  • As far as possible, where people are split into teams or shift groups, fixing these teams or shift groups so that where contact is unavoidable, this happens between the same people.
  • Identifying areas where people have to directly pass things to each other, for example, job information, spare parts, samples, raw materials, and find ways to remove direct contact, such as through the use of drop-off points or transfer zones.
  • Minimising non-essential travel – consider remote options first.
  • Minimising the number of people travelling together in any one vehicle, using fixed travel partners, increasing ventilation when possible and avoiding sitting face-to-face.
  • Cleaning shared vehicles between shifts or on handover.
  • Where workers are required to stay away from their home, centrally logging the stay and making sure any overnight accommodation meets social distancing guidelines.
  • Putting in place procedures to minimise person-to-person contact during deliveries to other sites.
  • Maintaining consistent pairing where two-person deliveries are required.
  • Minimising contact during payments and exchange of documentation, for example, by using electronic payment methods and electronically signed and exchanged documents.
  • Providing clear, consistent and regular communication to improve understanding and consistency of ways of working.
  • Engaging with workers and worker representatives through existing communication routes to explain and agree any changes in working arrangements.
  • Developing communication and training materials for workers prior to returning to site, especially around new procedures for arrival at work.
  • Ongoing engagement with workers, including through trades unions or employee representative groups to monitor and understand any unforeseen impacts of changes to working environments.
  • Awareness and focus on the importance of mental health at times of uncertainty.
  • Using simple, clear messaging to explain guidelines using images and clear language, with consideration of groups for which English may not be their first language.
  • Using visual communications, for example, whiteboards or signage, to explain changes to production schedules, breakdowns or materials shortages to reduce the need for face-to-face communications.
  • Communicating approaches and operational procedures to suppliers, customers or trade bodies to help their adoption Signage and to share experience.

Inbound and Outbound Goods:

  • Revising pick-up and drop-off collection points, procedures, signage and markings.
  • Minimising unnecessary contact at gatehouse security, yard and warehouse, for example, non-contact deliveries where the nature of the product allows for use of electronic prebooking.
  • Considering methods to reduce frequency of deliveries, for example by ordering larger quantities less often.
  • Where possible and safe, having single workers load or unload vehicles.
  • Where possible, using the same pairs of people for loads where more than one is needed.
  • Enabling drivers to access welfare facilities when required, consistent with other guidance.
  • Encouraging drivers to stay in their vehicles where this does not compromise their safety and existing safe working practice, such as preventing drive-aways.

The following guidance applies in addition to the above requirements depending on the specific workplace:

CONSTRUCTION AND OUTDOOR WORK

Moving around buildings and worksites:

  • Separating sites into working zones to keep different groups of workers physically separated as much as practical.
  • Planning site access and ‘area of safety’ points to enable social distancing.
  • Reducing the number of people in attendance at site inductions and consider holding them outdoors wherever possible with social distancing.

Making the main workplace safe for people who work statically:

  • Changing layouts to allow people to work further apart from each other.
  • Only where it is not possible to move workstations further apart, arranging people to work side by side or facing away from each other rather than face-to-face.
  • Only where it is not possible to move workstations further apart, using screens to separate people from each other.
  • Using a consistent pairing system if people have to work in close proximity, for example, during two person working, lifting or maintenance activities that cannot be redesigned.

Managing your customers, visitors and contractors:

  • Determining if schedules for essential services and contractor visits can be revised to reduce interaction and overlap between people
  • Providing signage to inform the public on what work you are doing.
  • Providing signage at entrances to the worksite to remind the public and workers to maintain social distancing.
  • Providing signage on rights of way that cross your workplace to remind the public to maintain social distancing.

Handling equipment, materials, waste, and onsite vehicles:

  • Cleaning procedures for the parts of shared equipment you touch after each use, thinking about equipment, tools and vehicles, for example, pallet trucks and forklift trucks.
  • Encouraging increased handwashing and introducing more handwashing facilities for workers handling goods and merchandise or providing hand sanitiser where this is not practical.
  • Regular cleaning of vehicles that workers may take home.
  • Regular cleaning of reusable delivery boxes.

FACTORIES, PLANTS AND WAREHOUSES

Handling goods, merchandise and other materials, and onsite vehicles:

  • Cleaning procedures for the parts of shared equipment you touch after each use, thinking about equipment, tools and vehicles, for example, pallet trucks and forklift trucks.
  • Encouraging increased handwashing and introducing more handwashing facilities for workers handling goods and merchandise or providing hand sanitiser where this is not practical.
  • Regular cleaning of vehicles that workers may take home.
  • Regular cleaning of reusable delivery boxes.

LABS AND RESEARCH FACILITIES

Coming to work and leaving work:

  • Providing storage for workers for clothes and bags.
  • Requesting staff change into work clothing and equipment on-site using appropriate facilities/changing areas, where social distancing and hygiene guidelines can be met.
  • Washing lab clothing and equipment such as goggles on-site rather than by individual staff members at home.

Moving around buildings and worksites:

  • Removing access controls on low category labs so that people do not have to use access cards.
  • Using fixed teams or adjusting booking processes to reduce the number of people in a lab at the same time to avoid overcrowding.

Managing your customers, visitors and contractors:

  • Revising visitor arrangements to ensure social distancing and hygiene, for example, where someone physically signs in with the same pen in receptions.
  • Providing clear guidance on social distancing and hygiene to people on arrival, for example, signage, visual aids and before arrival, for example, by phone, on the website, by email.
  • Reviewing entry and exit routes for visitors and contractors to minimise contact with other people.
  • Coordinating and working collaboratively with landlords and other areas of facility sites, for example, where R&D facilities or labs are situated on science parks.

Cleaning the workplace:

  • Restarting and testing specialist equipment which may have been unused for a longer than usual period of time.
  • Determining the required cleaning process for expensive equipment that cannot be washed down, designing protection around machines and equipment.
  • Enhancing cleaning for busy areas.
  • Providing more waste facilities and more frequent rubbish collection.
  • Where possible, providing paper towels as an alternative to hand dryers in handwashing facilities.
  • Cleaning procedures for material and equipment entering the site.
  • Cleaning procedures for the parts of shared equipment you touch after each use.
  • Cleaning procedures for vehicles.
  • Regular cleaning of vehicles that workers may take home.
  • Restricting non-business deliveries, for example, personal deliveries to workers.

OFFICES AND CONTACT CENTRES

Managing your customers, visitors and contractors:

  • Revising visitor arrangements to ensure social distancing and hygiene, for example, where someone physically signs in with the same pen in receptions.
  • Providing clear guidance on social distancing and hygiene to people on arrival, for example, signage or visual aids and before arrival, for example, by phone, on the website or by email.
  • Reviewing entry and exit routes for visitors and contractors to minimise contact with other people.
  • Coordinating and working collaboratively with landlords and other tenants in multi-tenant sites, for example, shared working spaces

Cleaning the workplace:

  • Limiting or restricting use of high-touch items and equipment, for example, printers or whiteboards.

OTHER PEOPLES’ HOMES

Deliveries to the home:

  • Minimising contact during deliveries wherever possible.
  • Where possible and safe, having single workers load or unload vehicles.
  • Where possible, using the same pairs of people for loads where more than one is needed.
  • Minimising the contact during delivery, for example, by calling to inform of your arrival rather than ringing the doorbell.
  • Minimising the contact during payments and exchange of documentation, for example, using electronic payment methods and electronically signed and exchanged documents.

RESTAURANTS OFFERING TAKEAWAY AND DELIVERY

Coming to work and leaving work:

  • Requesting staff change into work uniforms on site using appropriate facilities/changing areas, where social distancing and hygiene guidelines can be met.
  • Washing uniforms on site rather than by individual staff members at home.

Managing your customers, visitors and contractors:

  • Providing handwashing and hand sanitiser and encourage visitors to wash their hands regularly.
  • Regulating entry so that the premises do not become overcrowded, and placing 2m markers on the floor to maintain social distancing inside the premises.
  • Providing clear guidance on social distancing and hygiene to people on arrival, for example, signage, visual aids and before arrival, such as by phone, on the website or by email.
  • Determining if schedules for essential services and contractor visits can be revised to reduce interaction and overlap between people, for example, carrying out services at night.
  • Minimising contact between kitchen workers and front of house workers, delivery drivers or riders, for example, by having zones from which delivery drivers can collect packaged food items.
  • Using front of house staff to serve customers purchasing food and drink, minimising the time they spend in the kitchen.
  • Creating a physical barrier such as a screen, between front of house workers and customers where possible.
  • Encouraging contactless payments where possible.
  • Limiting access to premises for people waiting for or collecting takeaways.
  • Setting out clear demarcation for 2m distances for customers queuing.
  • Asking customers to wait in their cars.
  • Asking customers to order online, on apps or over the telephone to reduce queues and stagger pick-up times.
  • Making regular announcements to remind customers to follow social distancing advice and clean their hands regularly.
  • Displaying clearly to customers the social distancing guidelines in place.
  • Where site visits are required, for example, inbound supplier deliveries or safety critical visitors, providing site guidance on social distancing and hygiene on or before arrival.
  • Reviewing entry and exit routes for customers, visitors and contractors, to minimise contact with other people.

Cleaning the workplace:

  • Opening windows and doors frequently to encourage ventilation, where possible.
  • Following government guidance on cleaning food preparation and food service areas.
  • Wedging doors open, where appropriate, to reduce touchpoints. This does not apply to fire doors.
  • Cleaning laminated menus or disposing of paper menus after each use.
  • Providing only disposable condiments or cleaning non-disposable condiment containers after each use.
  • Recognising that cleaning measures are already stringent in kitchen areas, consider the need for additional cleaning and disinfection measures.
  • Having bins for collection of used towels and staff overalls.
  • Asking workers to wash hands before handling plates and takeaway boxes.
  • Special care should be taken for cleaning of portable toilets.
  • Regular cleaning of vehicles that workers may take home.
  • Enhanced handling procedures of laundry to prevent potential contamination of surrounding surfaces, to prevent raising dust or dispersing the virus.

Workforce management:

  • Communicating approaches and operational procedures with suppliers, customers or trade bodies to help their adoption and share experience.
  • Using simple, clear messaging to explain guidelines using images and clear language, with consideration of groups for which English may not be their first language.
  • Using visual communications, for example, whiteboards or signage, to explain changes to schedules, breakdowns or materials shortages without the need for face-to-face communications.

Inbound and outbound goods:

  • Creating one-way flow of traffic in stockrooms.
  • Adjusting put-away and replenishment rules to create space for social distancing.
  • Where social distancing cannot be maintained due to workplace design, sufficient mitigation strategies should be designed and implemented.

SHOPS AND BRANCHES

Managing your customers, visitors and contractors:

  • Defining the number of customers that can reasonably follow 2m social distancing within the store and any outdoor selling areas.
  • Take into account total floorspace as well as likely pinch points and busy areas.
  • Limiting the number of customers in the store, overall and in any particular congestion areas, for example doorways between outside and inside spaces.
  • Suspending or reducing customer services that cannot be undertaken without contravening social distancing guidelines. This may include re-thinking how assistance is provided, for example, using fixed pairs of colleagues to lift heavy objects rather than a single colleague lifting with a customer.
  • Encouraging customers to shop alone where possible, unless they need specific assistance.
  • Reminding customers who are accompanied by children that they are responsible for supervising them at all times and should follow social distancing guidelines.
  • Looking at how people walk through the shop and how you could adjust this to reduce congestion and contact between customers, for example, queue management or one-way flow, where possible.
  • Ensuring any changes to entries, exit and queue management take into account reasonable adjustments for those who need them, including disabled shoppers.
  • Using outside premises for queuing where available and safe, for example some car parks.
  • Working with your local authority or landlord to take into account the impact of your processes on public spaces such as high streets and public car parks.
  • Having clearly designated positions from which colleagues can provide advice or assistance to customers whilst maintaining social distance.
  • Shopping centres should take responsibility for regulating the number of customers in the centre and the queuing process in communal areas on behalf of their retail tenants.
  • Continuing to keep customer restaurants and cafes closed until further notice, apart from when offering hot or cold food to be consumed off the premises.
  • Providing clear guidance on social distancing and hygiene to people on arrival, for example, signage and visual aids.
  • Providing written or spoken communication of the latest guidelines to both workers and customers inside and outside the store.
  • Creating social distancing champions to demonstrate social distancing guidelines to customers, if helpful.
  • Ensuring latest guidelines are visible in selling and non-selling areas.

Cleaning the workplace:

  • Frequent cleaning objects and surfaces that are touched regularly such as self-checkouts, trolleys, coffee machines, or staff handheld devices, and making sure there are adequate disposal arrangements.
  • Providing more waste facilities and more frequent rubbish collection.
  • Where possible, providing paper towels as an alternative to hand dryers in handwashing facilities.
  • Considering very carefully whether fitting rooms should be open, given the challenges in operating them safely.
  • Cleaning them very frequently, typically between each use.
  • Creating procedures to manage clothes that have been tried on, for example delaying their return to the shop floor.
  • Limiting contact between customers and colleagues during fitting, for example by suspending fitting assistance.
  • Limiting customer handling of merchandise, for example, through different display methods, new signage or rotation of high-touch stock.
  • Putting in place picking-up and dropping-off collection points where possible, rather than passing goods hand-to-hand.
  • Enforcing staggered collection times for customers collecting items, with a queuing system in place to ensure a safe distance of 2m.
  • Setting up ‘no contact’ return procedures where customers take return goods to a designated area.
  • Encouraging contactless refunds.
  • Keeping returns separate from displayed merchandise / stock to reduce the likelihood of transmission through touch.
  • Providing guidance to how workers can safely assist customers with handling large item purchases.

OTHER CHALLENGES FACING EMPLOYERS

In addition to the guidelines summarised above, the Government has stressed that those people returning to work should continue to avoid public transport wherever possible and should instead choose to cycle, walk or drive, to minimise the number of people with whom they come into close contact. Plainly, this is not going to be possible for everyone, and so if public transport is the only travel option, people should ensure that social distancing is followed rigorously. Employers should consider whether staggered start times would assist employees in complying with social distancing on public transport.

The most recent government guidance has also included an update on childcare. Paid childcare can now take place provided it complies with the following public health principles:

  1. Keep your hands and face as clean as possible;
  2. Avoid crowds;
  3. Think about how to travel and when to travel;
  4. Wash clothes regularly; and
  5. Keep indoor places well ventilated.

This change will help childcare workers continue to work as working from home is not possible. In addition, it presents a solution to the childcare challenges that many parents have been facing since the lockdown was enforced.

If you have any questions or require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us on 020 7220 9130 or info@wlegal.co.uk so that our expert team can give you the advice and support you need.

 

 

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