Government issues employer guidance for gradual lockdown easing
13 May 2020: the government has released guidance for a range of workplaces on how to restart their businesses after lockdown while ensuring employees and customers remain as safe as possible.
The eight guides cover a range of different workplace settings, from outdoor work to factories and offices, and businesses operating a range of different types are advised to use as many of the guides as they need.
The guidance follows the Prime Minister’s statement on Sunday that those who cannot work from home should be “actively encouraged” to go to work in England – although advice is different in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Those who can work from home are still advised to do so under the new directions, which apply to businesses currently open and organisations that may be part of a “phased re-opening” from June 1. Further guidance for other sectors is to be published later.
Several common themes run through each piece of guidance, including the need to maintain social distancing of two metres where possible, cleaning more frequently and carrying out coronavirus risk assessments to see what measures are needed. Workplaces with more than 50 employees are expected to publish the results of such assessments. Organisations of all sizes will be subject to ‘spot inspections’ to check they are keeping employees safe, and potential fines if they are not.
Office-based workplaces are asked to consider staggering arrival, break and departure times to reduce crowding, installing one-way systems, screens, barriers or floor tape to maintain social distancing and to avoid hot desking.
The guidance recommends additional cleaning processes for "high-contact" objects like handles and keyboards, and employers should provide hand washing and sanitisers at entry or exit points. Wearing a face covering in an enclosed space such as an office remains optional and is not required by law.
The guides break down into the following settings:
- Construction and other outdoor work
- Factories, plants and warehouses
- Labs and research facilities
- Offices and contact centres
- Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery
- Shops and branches
ICAEW Chief Executive Michael Izza called the practical implications of making workplaces safer a “difficult and delicate balance to be struck between the responsibility to protect individuals and the need to get Britain working again”.
“This is not a return to business-as-usual, and companies will note the government’s advice that employees should continue to work from home if possible,” continued Izza. “Implementing the guidance will mean costs and changes which businesses will not find easy. In light of that, I expect many of them will think twice about re-opening their offices.”
Along with the workplace guidance, the government also issued frequently asked questions guidance relating to the broader recovery strategy published by the government on Monday. This includes sections on going to work and workers’ rights.