Obeying these rules, and making sure customers do the same, can be challenging, so how do businesses and customers stay on the right side of the law and what are the penalties if they don’t?
If you are a DAS customer, you can can use our Covid-19 Risk Assessment template on DAS Businesslaw as part of your policy. You can use this to identify potential risks and necessary control measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 within your workplace. All you need is the voucher code in your policy provider’s documentation.
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Samantha Jenkins, Associate, DAS Law explains what you need to know about returning to the workplace…
What are the latest guidelines issued by the government on the easing of lockdown restrictions and social distancing for businesses?
The government has produced guidance applicable to any business which is permitted under current guidance to open. The guidance is produced to advise businesses how they can ensure that they are protecting staff and customers from the spread of Covid-19.
The provisions are fairly extensive and largely serve to promote good hygiene and social distancing. Importantly, all businesses that re-open must ensure that they carry out an appropriate Covid-19 risk assessment, which must be recorded in writing and displayed for viewing by employees. An appropriate risk assessment template has been produced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
To observe social distancing as much as possible, businesses should only have essential staff in the workplace, as well as those who cannot work from home. To ensure social distancing is observed by staff and any customers, businesses should (this list is non-exhaustive);
- Stay two metres apart from others, or at least one metre (with other pre-cautions i.e. wearing masks) where it is not possible;
- Put up signs and place tape on floors to advise of the need to social distance;
- Minimise contact between staff by keeping any contact time as short as possible;
- Advise staff to wear appropriate PPE (masks, visors, aprons etc) when within two metres of others;
- Move seating and desks to encourage social distancing;
- Have fixed teams of individuals working together;
- Work back to back rather than face to face;
- Where staff cannot work two metres apart they should only work together for 15 minutes at a time;
- Use screens and barriers to separate people where possible;
- Put in a one way system with separate entrance and exit points;
- Close off non-essential areas;
- Stagger workers start and break times;
- Use stairs instead of lifts where possible.
Staff who are in the workplace should be informed and trained on the new systems of working and on the symptoms of COVID-19 and be advised to appropriately self-isolate in the event they, or a member of their household, becomes symptomatic.
To encourage good hygiene, businesses should;
- Ensure workers wash their hands regularly;
- Carry out more regular cleaning;
- Provide hand sanitiser and wash stations;
- Ask staff to change into workwear on site;
- Where possible, wash staff uniform on site and do not let workers take them home;
- Sanitise all work equipment;
- Limit staff sharing equipment;
- Open windows for good airflow.
Any business which serves customers or has visitors who spend a period of time in the premises is required to take the personal details of those individuals for the purposes of the NHS test, track and trace programme. Business must keep these details for 21 days. Full details of the requirements can be found here on the government’s website.
The guidance above is largely followed by all of the devolved nations and so largely applies to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
How are the rules being enforced and can a business be reported for not adhering to the guidelines?
The guidance produced by the government is in the interests of public health and safety. Therefore, if a business is not complying with the guidance and/or putting any person at risk they can be reported to the relevant authority for any breach. There are various reporting authorities but in the main complaints can be made to the HSE or the local authority. A full list of reporting authorities can be found on the HSE website.
What penalties might be imposed for those businesses that break the rules?
It is an offence for a business to open in breach of lockdown restrictions. Enforcing authorities have the power to issue prohibition notices, fines and to force closure.
Can any penalties be applied to business and individuals?
As it is a criminal offence, individuals as well as corporate bodies can be held liable for a breach.
Given that the guidelines and restrictions are changing regularly, how can a business ensure they are adhering to the most current rules?
The most recent guidance produced the government can be found online at the government’s website. This page also provides links to relevant advice from the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland governments.
Need more help?
DAS UK customers have access to templates and guides on dasbusinesslaw.co.uk, including a Covid-19 Risk Assessment template and a number of other Covid-19 related guides and templates.
You can access DAS Businesslaw by using the voucher code in your policy provider’s documentation.
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Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created. Note that the information was accurate at the time of publication but laws may have since changed.