Duty to protect the health and safety of employees

During a pandemic or crisis, a business must keep itself and employees informed about related health risks.  Actions could include having a system or means to keep abreast of government advice on any current issue, as it develops. This can be an internal system or one that has been established via a third party such as a law firm or risk management business.

NB: This portal is designed to be a good starting point for this particular action.

1 - General Communication

A business must ensure that it has a reliable and effective system for communicating with employees.  This might include ensuring that you have up-to-date contact details for your employees (including personal contact numbers) and that you have access to these in the event of a computer breakdown.

2 - Emergency Communication

A business must ensure that there is an emergency communication system in place in the event that normal means of communication cannot be accessed or utilised. An example of this is where email functionality is not available and a business needs to turn to personal telephone contact details.

3 - Hygiene Support

Fundamentally, in the event of a pandemic, the business must also take steps to ensure that there is good hygiene in the workplace (based on the facts and science of the pandemic itself) and that working practices do not pose undue risks to employees.

This might include training, provision of soap/sanitiser/tissues and communications about why these practices are required and how often.

4 - Risk Assessments

Carrying out a risk assessment to identify any higher risk groups, such as those who have a high level of contact with each other.

Travel Considerations

Where employees travel to high-risk areas (and particularly where the UK government or a relevant foreign government has advised against this travel), the business must check whether:

  • Their travel insurance will still provide cover for medical repatriation;
  • Local care is available or suitable; and
  • Specialist travel protection from a third party is required or desirable.

ACAS Advice

Source: ACAS

In case coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads more widely in the UK, employers should consider some simple steps to help protect the health and safety of staff.

It's good practice for employers to:

  • keep everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace
  • make sure everyone's contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date
  • make sure managers know how to spot symptoms of coronavirus and are clear on any relevant processes, for example sickness reporting and sick pay, and procedures in case someone in the workplace shows symptoms of the virus
  • make sure there are clean places to wash hands with hot water and soap, and encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly
  • provide hand sanitiser and tissues for staff, and encourage them to use them
  • reconsider any travel to affected areas

Employers must not single anyone out. For example, they must not treat an employee differently because of their race or ethnicity.

Cleaning your Workplace

Source: Public Health England

If you have had a case of Coronavirus in your workplace:

  1. Cleaning an area with normal household disinfectant after someone with suspected coronavirus (COVID-19) has left will reduce the risk of passing the infection on to other people.
  2. If an area can be kept closed and secure for 72 hours, wait until this time has passed for cleaning as the amount of virus living on surfaces will have reduced significantly by 72 hours.
  3. Wherever possible, wear disposable or washing-up gloves and aprons for cleaning. These should be double-bagged, then stored securely for 72 hours then thrown away in the regular rubbish after cleaning is finished.
  4. Using a disposable cloth, first clean hard surfaces with warm soapy water. Then disinfect these surfaces with the cleaning products you normally use. Pay particular attention to frequently touched areas and surfaces, such as bathrooms, grab-rails in corridors and stairwells and door handles.
  5. If an area has been heavily contaminated, such as with visible bodily fluids, from a person with coronavirus (COVID-19), consider using protection for the eyes, mouth and nose, as well as wearing gloves and an apron.
  6. Wash hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds, and after removing gloves, aprons and other protection used while cleaning.