Government releases COVID-19 guidelines for returning to work

COVID-19 guidelines have been made available to UK employers in order to help to get staff safely back to work.

The guidance comes from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which has been developed by consulting 250 businesses and unions, industry bodies and the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Also, Public Health England (PHE) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), have been in consultation to develop best practice on the safest ways of working across the economy, providing people with the confidence they need to return to work.

The new guidance is:

  • Work from home, if you can

All reasonable steps should be taken by employers to help people work from home. But for those who cannot work from home and whose workplace has not been told to close, our message is clear: you should go to work. Staff should speak to their employer about when their workplace will open.

  • Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, in consultation with workers or trade unions

This guidance operates within current health and safety employment and equalities legislation and employers will need to carry out COVID-19 risk assessments in consultation with their workers or trade unions, to establish what guidelines to put in place. If possible, employers should publish the results of their risk assessments on their website and we expect all businesses with over 50 employees to do so.

  • Maintain 2 metres social distancing, wherever possible

Employers should re-design workspaces to maintain two metre distances between people by staggering start times, creating one way walkthroughs, opening more entrances and exits, or changing seating layouts in break rooms.

  • Where people cannot be 2 metres apart, manage transmission risk

Employers should look into putting barriers in shared spaces, creating workplace shift patterns or fixed teams minimising the number of people in contact with one another, or ensuring colleagues are facing away from each other.

  • Reinforcing cleaning processes

Workplaces should be cleaned more frequently, paying close attention to high-contact objects like door handles and keyboards. Employers should provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points.

Alok Sharma, the business secretary said:

This guidance provides a framework to get the UK back to work in a way that is safe for everyone.

These are practical steps to enable employers to identify risks that COVID-19 creates and to take pragmatic measures to mitigate them.

And as we are able to reopen new sectors of the economy, we will continue our collaborative approach working with a wide range of stakeholders, to provide guidance for additional workplaces.

 

Sarah Albon, chief executive, HSE said:

The BEIS guidance issued today sets out practical steps employers can take to enable staff to continue and return to work. We have worked with BEIS to ensure businesses have access to the information they need to put in place measures to help them work safely. This will assist employers in carrying out risk assessments and putting practical measures in place.

At the heart of the return to work is controlling the risk posed by the virus. Ensuring safe working practices are in place will help deliver a safe return to work and support businesses across the country.

The workplace guidance documents can be accessed here.