Wait over for detailed workplace guidance

Where social distancing is not possible, face masks or coverings are now encouraged
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The government has now published its initial roadmap on how the UK will be able to emerge from coronavirus lockdown.

Detail on how workplaces can safely re-open, were published on Monday evening

The first phase of changes to the government’s policies on lockdown restrictions are set to come in on Wednesday 13 May, and apply to businesses and individuals in England only.

The document, which comes under the headline ‘Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government’s Covid-19 Recovery Strategy’, reiterates that employees should continue to work from home wherever possible.

It says: “This will help minimise the number of social contacts across the country and therefore keep transmissions as low as possible. All those who work are contributing taxes that help pay for the healthcare provision on which the UK relies.

“People who are able to work at home make it possible for people who have to attend workplaces in person to do so while minimising the risk of overcrowding on transport and in public places.”

On travel, “all workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open”, it adds.

“Sectors of the economy that are allowed to be open should be open, for example this includes food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific research in laboratories.

“The only exceptions to this are those workplaces such as hospitality and nonessential retail which during this first step the Government is requiring to remain closed.”

The government has now also changed its advice on face coverings, now recommending that “people should aim to wear a face-covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing isn’t possible and they come into contact with others that they do not normally meet, for example on public transport or in some shops”.

As per previous advice, anyone who has symptoms or lives in a household with someone who has symptoms, must not leave their house or go to work.

The government states that since mid-April, it has been working with the Health and Safety Executive, public health authorities, business bodies and unions to agree on ways to make workplaces less infectious – this will form the basis of more detailed ‘Covid-19 Secure’ guidelines to emerge this week.

In today’s guidance, it does hint at what ‘Covid-19 Secure’ might look like – greater social distancing and more stringent hygiene. “It is possible to reduce the risks of transmission in the workplace by limiting the number of people that any given individual comes into contact with regularly,” it advises.

“Employers can support this where practical by changing shift patterns and rotas to keep smaller, contained teams. Evidence also suggests the virus is less likely to be transmitted in well-ventilated areas.”

It urges individuals to seek support from their employer “where practical” to change shift patterns and reduce how many people they come into contact with at work, “splitting people into smaller, contained teams”.

“Employers should consider staggering working hours and expanding bicycle storage facilities, changing facilities and car parking to help,” it adds.

The document further suggests that employees should follow guidance supplied by employers once they are at work, although employers are themselves yet to receive the detailed workplace guidance from the government.

It says: “Employers have a duty to assess and manage risks to your safety in the workplace. This includes how to make adjustments to your workplace to help you maintain social distance. It also includes guidance on hygiene as evidence suggests that the virus can exist for up to 72 hours on surfaces.

“Frequent cleaning is therefore particularly important for communal surfaces like door handles or lift buttons and communal areas like bathrooms, kitchens and tea points.”

Moving forward, the government asks businesses to “be innovative in developing novel approaches” to how they operate, building on the widespread changes made already such as increased homeworking and a huge reduction in commuting.

Article published on 11 May, updated 12 May 2020.

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