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Covid-secure guidelines to become law

Employment Law

In the latest government announcement, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new coronavirus restrictions as cases begin to surge within the UK. From Thursday 24th September onwards, the Covid-secure guidelines will become legal obligations for businesses in the retail, leisure, tourism and other sectors. Some of the restrictions have been set out in The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No.2) (England) Regulations 2020.

Previously, the Covid-secure guidelines simply advised businesses on creating a Covid-safe working environment and it was within the employer’s discretion to choose how they follow the guidelines. However, as the guidelines will become law, employers will no longer be given the choice to follow the guidelines and all business must put the correct procedures in place to ensure they are abiding by the guidelines.

In addition to the changes to the guidelines, it is now mandatory for retail staff, taxi passengers and hospitality customers and staff to wear face masks, although customers are able to remove their face coverings when they are seated. Guidance stating that face coverings and visors should be worn in close contact services will become law from 24th September. The government has also introduced a new closing time of 10:00pm for all pubs, bars and restaurants and they are only able to provide table service to customers.

Office workers will also be impacted by the latest announcement as the prime minister has advised all those who are effectively able to work from home to resume working from home again despite being asked to return to the office in previous announcements. Public sector employees and those who cannot work from home such as construction workers, retail staff and people working in essential services can continue attending their workplaces.

What are the latest Covid-secure guidelines?

In order to provide a Covid-secure working environment, all businesses must carry out the following steps under the new guidelines:

  1. Office workers who can work effectively from home should do so over the winter. Where an employer, in consultation with their employee, judges an employee can carry out their normal duties from home they should do so.
  2. Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment. Share it with all your staff.
  3. Maintain 2 metres social distancing, wherever possible.
  4. Where people cannot be 2 metres apart, manage transmission risk.
  5. Ask your visitors to wear face coverings where required to do so by law.
  6. Reinforce cleaning processes such as regularly cleaning work stations and asking employees to frequently wash their hands or use hand sanitiser.
  7. Increase ventilation by keeping doors and windows open where possible and running ventilation systems at all times.
  8. Take part in NHS Test and Trace by keeping a record of all staff and contractors for 21 days. From 18 September, this will be enforced in law. Some exemptions apply.

Find out more about the specific rules for different types of business on gov.uk.

Implications of breaching the Covid-secure legal obligations

Businesses failing to comply with the new legal obligations risk facing fines or closures. 

How long will the restrictions be put in place?

The government plans to put these preventatives measures in place for the next six months in order to avoid a second lockdown and to fight off the second wave of the virus.

The Hegarty Solicitors employment law team are experienced in dealing with all types of employment issues. Whatever your situation, we can help.

If you have any questions or require advice regarding any aspect of employment law please contact Martin Bloom on 01733 295 632 or email martin.bloom@hegarty.co.uk 

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