The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued guidance aimed at businesses during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which is helpful for business owners.
Among other things, the guidance says that:
- Only those defined as key workers, where work cannot be done from home and it is “absolutely necessary” can go to work
- Employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home
- You and your staff should only travel to work if it's absolutely necessary and provided you are not showing coronavirus symptoms and neither you nor any of your household are self-isolating
- You and your staff should observe social distancing and hygiene guidelines while travelling or working in the office
The HSE are encouraging essential businesses to continue as it is important for a number of reasons to do so. Road transport operators, however, are unlikely to be able to have all staff working from home. An obvious example of staff who need to travel are drivers. However, it may be easier for drivers to comply with Public Health England (PHE) guidelines in respect of social distancing and hygiene by:
- Maintaining enough distance (2 metres) from other people
- Washing their hands thoroughly and regularly
In respect of other staff, for example those dealing with administration, you should seriously consider whether they really need to work from your operating centre or office. If they can do their job from home, you should do everything you can to allow this.
The HSE has confirmed in their guidance that where it identifies employers who are not taking action to comply with the relevant Public Health England guidance to control public health risks, e.g. employers not taking appropriate action to socially distance or ensure workers in the shielded category can follow the NHS advice to self-isolate for the period specified, they will consider taking a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks. These actions include the provision of specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices to help secure improvements with the PHE guidance.
It is therefore important that if you are continuing to operate your business and continue to employ staff, you carefully consider PHE guidance and take any necessary action to ensure that you are compliant as an employer, otherwise you could be at risk of enforcement action by the HSE.
*Given the ever changing landscape dictated by government guidance that can change on a daily basis, it is extremely important to keep up to date with any changes in guidance and the link at the beginning of this article should provide the best indication of relevant updates.