Companies must be on track for Covid-safe workplace

Companies anticipating a return to the workplace in July, if the Government’s route map stays on track, should be planning how to protect workers and customers once the country is released from the current Covid-related restrictions. 

Although the Government may decide that it is safe to relax regulations and recommendations around social distancing and large groups, the virus will still be circulating, and individuals could become infected or pass the virus on to others in the workplace.

Planning ahead and involving staff in the planning process is the best approach.  By consulting and understanding worries around managing coronavirus, strategies can be developed, and workers reassured about how they will be kept safe, and how, in turn, they can keep others safe.

Asking staff if they have any concerns and taking action to address those, will help to create a positive environment for people to return to work and encourage everyone to play their part in helping to operate your business safely.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 employers must take steps to protect employees, whether in the workplace or acting offsite in a work capacity.  And all employers who have five or more staff in their workforce must have a written health and safety policy and make it available to employees.

These are statutory duties and apply whether we are in a pandemic or not.  The responsibilities are even more important in the current situation, and it’s sensible to take a structured approach, even if you have fewer than five staff.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the government body in charge of enforcing responsibilities, has developed a range of information for employers on how to make the workplace safe and protect staff as they return to the workplace.

As well as ensuring staff are safe within their place of employment, staff must be protected also when travelling on business.  Ignoring this aspect could expose an employer to a potential compensation claim if an employee were to contract Covid-19 while travelling for work purposes.

There should be a documented risk assessment for each trip, and travel options should be chosen carefully to provide the safest possible environment, such as ensuring accommodation is being thoroughly cleaned, or responding to employee concerns about using public transport.

Employees need to have safety at the forefront of their daily activities and be aware of how they can protect themselves, their fellow workers and customers.  Robust health and safety policies, regularly reviewed and properly implemented, are essential, and provide a strong defence if anything unfortunate should happen, whether to deal with coronavirus or otherwise.

Mental wellbeing should also be high on the agenda according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which has developed a Talking toolkit as a resource for employers to handle work-related stress.  Further support is available via the Mental Health at Work charity.

To discuss this, or any other Employment Law related matter with Jane directly, email info@hartbrown.co.uk or call 01483 887766. 

* This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.

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Jane Crosby

Partner, Head of Dispute Resolution & Accredited Mediator

Jane is a Partner based in the Guildford office and she is also Head of the Dispute Resolution team here at Hart Brown. Jane specialises...

Partner, Head of Dispute Resolution & Accredited Mediator

Jane Crosby

Jane is a Partner based in the Guildford office and she is also Head of the Dispute Resolution team here at Hart Brown. Jane specialises in employment Law and commercial litigation and brings more than 15 years' experience to her role.

Prior to entering the legal profession, Jane was employed in the aviation industry. This experience is appreciated by many of Jane's clients who note that she is able to take a commercial and pragmatic approach to any legal issue that they face.

Jane acts for a wide range of individuals and businesses and her areas of specialism include aviation, property related industries and IT. Jane regularly advises on aspects of employment law, such as settlement agreements, employment contracts, policies and procedures, redundancies, equal pay, data protection, issues arising from TUPE and reorganisations, the calculation of holiday pay, bonus and commission payments, disciplinary and grievance issues, dismissal and termination issues, the protection of confidential information and the enforcement of restrictive covenants. Jane gets involved in GDPR training for her clients and she is able to deliver tailored employment law training sessions upon request.

As a commercial litigation lawyer, Jane also deals in shareholder and directors disputes, commercial contract disputes and the enforcement of restrictive covenants.

Jane has been involved in successful high value commercial litigation for clients in the High Courts, she is an accredited mediator and she is a member of the Employment Lawyers Association.

Jane is often asked to write for a number of well known publications, including The Daily Mail, The Telegraph and The Week and she has been interviewed on BBC Radio 4.

Here is small selection of the feedback that Jane has received:

“Jane, I cannot sincerely thank you enough for your wise counsel and am delighted to have made your acquaintance. If I am blessed with a new position somewhere I will hand over my contract in the first instance to you. Likewise, any of my friends, peers, romans and countrymen wanting advice, I will point them in your direction.”

“Jane, you have been most resilient on my behalf for which I sincerely thank you for all your endeavours. I have a tremendous working relationship with Hart Brown and you have undoubtedly compounded this further."

“I appreciated the clarity of advice given at a stressful time”.

“A sensitive and highly professional approach and efficient work in the interests of the client”.

“Your advice, conduct and assistance have been indeed outstanding and very professional but also – and most importantly – very humane”.