Is there anything I need to put in place for their return? What are my responsibilities?
The basics of health and safety law requires that employers take “all reasonably practicable steps” to ensure workers’ safety and that a suitable and sufficient assessment of risk is undertaken. It is the individual assessment of Covid-19 risk in each workplace that will be central. Employers will be required to conduct a robust risk assessment and then, following the hierarchy of controls, put robust processes and safeguards in place to address those risks.
UK government guidance and HSE advice is continually evolving, which in practice means that any risk assessment will need to be reviewed very regularly as that guidance develops. There is flexibility for individual businesses within the overall government framework and there will need to be a process of evaluation to ensure that the measures in place continue to meet the requirements.
The starting point of avoid, eliminate and control means looking at individuals continuing to work from home where possible (the fewer the number of people back in the workplace the lower the risk), and if not look at risk management, which leads to administrative controls – i.e. changing work practices before ending up at PPE. PPE is generally seen as control of last resort but in practice – facemasks, disposable gloves and constant prompts to wash hands for example.
In terms of changing working practices, employers should be thinking about:
- the workspace and how this is laid layout
- how do we make sure it is kept clean and hygienic
- how do we keep people apart
- how can we use toilets, canteens or other shared spaces/facilities safely
- how do we promote and enable higher levels of workplace hygiene
- if we are going to rely on PPE – can we get it, and is it suitable
- what about limiting customer interactions
- will there be enough first aiders on site
- can we manage fire safety, deliveries etc
- what about higher risk workers
- should work tools and equipment be allocated on an individual basis to employees.
These decisions need to be recorded and clearly communicated to staff members.
To respond to the crisis businesses might need to exchange information to a greater extent than they would usually. They might need to discuss capacity and to coordinate supply chains (both upstream and downstream). They might need to purchase or sell jointly to ensure vital supplies are maintained. In general agreements or collaboration which:
- Avoid a shortage, or ensure security, of supply
- Ensure a fair distribution of scarce products
- Continue essential services
- Provide new services such as food delivery to vulnerable consumers
We are working with many of our clients to progress with stopping up applications in order to divert/stop up highways and public rights of way affecting development sites. Due to lockdown restrictions the Department for Transport stalled the progress of applications because they were unable to comply with the statutory publicity requirements. We have very recently been contacted by the Department for Transport casework team who have confirmed that the stopping up/diversion applications can now be progressed. We are aware that Councils across the country are also now progressing with applications. Please contact us if you require any advice/assistance in respect of your application.
- Trusts should allow for telephone advice rather than face-to-face review from critical care when clinically appropriate.
- Hospitals should discuss the sharing of resources and the transfer of patients between units, including units in other hospitals, to ensure the best use of critical care within the NHS.
Please note, the above is intended to provide a summary of the key recommendations which emerge from this guidance. Access to the full guidance can be found here.
If you sponsor migrants under Tier 2 or Tier 5, you will not be required to report a sponsored employee’s absence if it is linked to coronavirus and you have authorised this absence e.g. they are self-isolating and you have received an online isolation note.
The Home Office has confirmed that sponsors do not need to withdraw sponsorship for affected employees who have been absent from work for more than 4 weeks if they consider these are exceptional circumstances, which would include absences related to coronavirus. It does however remain extremely important to know where your sponsored workers are and to have up to date contact details.
A number of our clients and networks raised issues in the early stages of the Scheme around the requirement for personal guarantees to access finance under the Scheme. The Scheme has now been updated so that:
- For facilities under £250,000, personal guarantees cannot be taken to support lending under the Scheme.
- For facilities above £250,000, personal guarantees may still be required by a lender but the amount which can be recovered under these guarantees is capped at a maximum of 20% of the outstanding balance of the CBILS facility after taking into account any other recoveries from business assets.