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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update - Are Employers Failing to Implement Social Distancing Rules?

on Friday, 12 February 2021.

It has been reported that since the early stages of the pandemic in March 2020, almost 5,600 COVID-19 related reports were made to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

It has been reported that analysis of official figures has shown that:

  • 8% of COVID-19 related reports made to the HSE raised concerns about the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • 48% of reports raised concerns about social distancing at work and employers' failures to implement social distancing measures. Of these social distancing complaints, it is said that 25% of these reports were made in October and November 2020, highlighting that, despite being 6 months into the pandemic, employers were still struggling to implement appropriate measures to ensure a COVID-19 secure workplace for staff.

These reports emphasise the health and safety obligations on employers and the duty of care owed to staff. To protect public health and comply with government guidance, it is imperative for employers to ensure that sufficient focus has been given to the specific health and safety obligations arising in the context of the pandemic. Not only will this help to protect organisations from the potential risk of claims, it could also help to avoid possible reputational damage. The HSE have the power to carry out investigations and 'name and shame' employers who are not complying, as well as to take enforcement action against businesses, senior managers and directors where there have been breaches.

Coronavirus Legal Advice

What is Best Practice for Employers?

Employers should be mindful of the ever-changing landscape and evolving risks attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers should consider the following points when assessing whether they are taking adequate measures to comply with their health and safety obligations, protect staff and avoid COVID-19 outbreaks, as well as reduce the risks of potential tribunal claims:

  • Carry out regular risk assessments to ensure the measures in place are adequate. Remember that risk assessments taken at the start of the pandemic may not be sufficient now. This is particularly relevant as the rates of infection fluctuate on a localised level and as new variants of the virus emerge.
  • Implement clear and robust policies regarding COVID-19. These policies should be under regular review, properly followed and enforced.
  • Ensure relevant PPE is in place at the workplace.
  • Introduce training for staff to make them aware of the health and safety obligations and using the relevant PPE.
  • Consider possible measures to reduce the number of people at the workplace at one time to minimise human contact.
  • Follow HSE guidance provided regarding social distancing which suggests measures you can put in place such as providing signage to remind people to keep a 2 metre distance, limiting people in lifts and work vehicles, and having people work side-by-side rather than face-to-face.
  • Listen to and explore any concerns raised regarding COVID-19 security and health and safety. Take sufficient time to respond to such concerns and consult with staff about the measures in place.
  • Consider whether COVID-19 testing is necessary and whether it is reasonable to require staff to have tests.

For more information on whether your workplace has taken appropriate health and safety measures, please contact Siân James in our Employment Law team on 07468 698 971, or complete the form below.

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