Legal restrictions in place in respect of Covid-19 will start to end on Monday 19th July in England, Wales and Scotland. Each country is taking a slightly different approach to timings and some of the detail around what is required, but in all countries, there is the start of an easing.
This is a significant move away from the restrictions and obligations that we have been living with for over a year. We are being encouraged to take personal responsibility.
This makes it less clear to employers exactly how and what they need to do.
Employers now need to ensure they meet their legal obligations whilst also deciding on their stance to those unclear areas, such as whether they will want people to wear masks and if so when and where, their approach to requiring staff to undertake testing, whether to maintain social distancing and screens and how to manage where and when employees work etc.
There will not be a ‘one size fits all’ approach and each business should take a measured approach, remembering that from a legal perspective they must meet their core obligations.
Some considerations include:
- Taking all reasonably practical steps to reduce risks to the health and safety of employees, visitors, and the public.
- Consider and clearly communicate your arrangements for employees in terms of their place of work – remember that the employee has the basic right to stay away from the workplace if they reasonably believe it poses a serious and imminent health and safety risk to them.
- Employee wellbeing needs to be central to your planning. Employees may be anxious and uncertain around returning to the workplace, about commuting on public transport.
Whilst it is a welcome return to something more ‘normal’ for us all with the easing of restrictions for all businesses to open properly after many months of restrictions, some of the changes and implications of such will need careful handling by employers.
Most importantly employers need to meet their core legal obligations – starting with following the principles set out in the revised ‘Working Safely’ guidance.
Beyond that, employers need to handle employees sensitively, especially considering people will still have anxiety. How and in what circumstances an employer may wish employees to return to the workplace needs careful thought. Communication with employees is vital.
If you would like advice or further information about your obligations as an employer, please do get in touch.