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What other financial resources are available for charities?

Charities can also take advantage of the existing measures the Government has already put in place including deferring their VAT bills, paying no business rates for their shops next year and furloughing staff where possible with the Government paying 80% of their wages under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – see our People and Employment FAQ’s and our Premise and Property FAQ’s.

Related FAQs

The employee I need to consider suspending is a doctor – do I have to follow MHPS

Yes probably in our opinion, even if you are not considering taking any formal action against them. Ultimately if a doctor is suspended this could be considered as causing them reputational damage and it therefore is correct that they are afforded the protections (in particular in relation to keeping exclusion/suspension under review) of MHPS. Under Part V of MHPS there is provision for excluding practitioners if they are a danger to patients and they refuse to recognise it or if they refuse to co-operate. It doesn’t refer to a particular risk for the practitioner themselves, but it would appear logical that it would apply.

Are all employees now required to wear face coverings?

The guidance states that people should aim to wear a face-covering in indoor spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others, for example on public transport or in some shops, and potentially in the workplace. Face coverings do not mean face masks such as clinical masks worn by certain key workers as PPE, which should be reserved for those people.

Staff working in areas that are open to the public must wear face coverings, this includes:

  • shops
  • supermarkets
  • bars
  • pubs
  • restaurants
  • cafes
  • banks
  • estate agents
  • post offices
  • public areas of hotels and hostels

If these businesses have taken steps in line with Health and Safety Executive guidance for COVID-19 secure workplaces to create a physical barrier between workers and members of the public then staff behind the barrier will not be required to wear a face covering.

For other indoor settings, employers should assess the use of face coverings on a case by case basis depending on the workplace environment, other appropriate mitigations they have put in place, and whether reasonable exemptions apply.

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.

What do we need to do?

Privacy policy – You must make sure the relevant privacy policies deal with how you will process Covid-19 data. You should have an employee privacy policy and this may already deal with health data (if it doesn’t, it should). You might also need to look at privacy policies for customers, visitors and suppliers. This ensures that processing is lawful, fair and transparent.

Lawful processing conditions – You will need to consider which processing conditions you are relying on (remembering that you need both an Article 6 condition and an Article 9 condition – this is the part of the GDPR which deals with special category data). As a lot of the data you collect will be about employees, you can’t use consent so you will have to find another lawful reason under GDPR which allows you to process the data.

Appropriate policy document – When you are considering your Article 9 processing conditions, remember you must also have an “appropriate policy document” in place.

Processing record – Finally make sure your processing record is up to date with information on what data you collect and use.

How are the Courts applying the new guidance?

Overall it is our experience that the Courts are quickly adapting in the context of the Coronavirus epidemic and making pragmatic decisions. The Judges seem live to the difficulties currently been faced by practitioners dealing with litigation and they are applying the new guidance.

The Courts are also mindful of pressures on NHS frontline staff and are taking steps not to put additional pressures on them at this time, including in our experience vacating an imminent Trial.