Working During COVID-19

Going To Work And Being COVID-19 Secure

Who is allowed to go to work?

With the exception of the organisations listed in this guidance on closing businesses and venues, the government has not required any other businesses to close to the public – it is important for business to carry on.

It is at the discretion of employers as to how staff can continue working safely. Working from home is one way to do this, but workplaces can also be made safe by following COVID-19 Secure guidelines. Your employer should consult with you on how you can work safely, and must ensure workplaces are safe if they are asking you to return, as above.

If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, you can go to work as long as the workplace is Covid-19 Secure but should carry on working from home wherever possible.

There is specific guidance for those showing symptoms that should be observed when considering adjustments to enable people to go back to work.

 

What are the ‘COVID-19 Secure’ safety guidelines workplaces have to put in place?

The government have set out clear, practical steps that businesses should take to ensure their workplaces are COVID-19 Secure and give their staff the confidence to return back to work.

These include how to keep as many people as possible safely apart from those they do not live within various workplace settings.

 

Can work gatherings exceed 6 people?

Work gatherings are exempt from the gatherings limit of 6. Where a group includes someone who is working, they are not counted as part of the gatherings limit. This means a tradesperson can go into a household of six without breaching the limit, if they are there for work.

 

Do I need to stay 2 metres apart – or 1 metre?

People should either stay 2 metres apart or ‘1 metre plus’ – which is one metre plus mitigations that will help to prevent transmission. These mitigations will depend on the workplace or setting. For example, on public transport, shops, supermarkets and in other public places, people must wear a face covering, as it is not always possible to stay 2 metres apart. People should also wash or sanitise their hands regularly and avoid the busiest routes and times (like the rush hour).

In other spaces, mitigations could include installing screens, making sure people face away from each other, putting up handwashing facilities, minimising the amount of time you spend with people outside your household or bubble, and being outdoors.

The government have set out COVID-19 Secure guidance to help businesses take the measures that are right for them.

 

How will health and safety regulations be enforced?

Where the enforcing authority, such as the Health and Safety Executive or your local authority, identifies employers who are not taking action to comply with the relevant public health legislation and guidance to control public health risks (for example, not completing a new risk assessment taking account the risk of COVID-19, or taking insufficient measures in response), they will consider a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks. This includes giving specific advice to a business, or issuing an improvement notice, which a business must respond to in a fixed time, or a prohibition notice. Failure to comply is a criminal offence, which can lead to fines or imprisonment for up to two years, giving the COVID-19 Secure guidelines indirect legal enforceability.

Local authorities also have new powers to close any premises if they believe it necessary to help prevent transmission of COVID-19.

Later this month, hospitality businesses will also be required to ensure there are no unlawful gatherings in their premises. We know the majority of businesses are responsible and are taking the necessary steps to be COVID-19 Secure, but for those businesses who won’t take those steps, egregious breaches will be enforced.

 

Workers’ Rights

My employer is asking me to come to work but I’m scared.

Employers and staff should discuss and agree working arrangements.

Employers should decide, in consultation with their employees, whether it is viable for them to continue working from home. Where it is decided that workers should come into their place of work then this will need to be reflected in the risk assessment and actions taken to manage the risks of transmission in line with this guidance.

It is at the discretion of employers as to how staff can continue working safely. Working from home is one way to do this, but workplaces can also be made safe by following COVID-19 Secure guidelines. Your employer should consult with you on how you can work safely, and must ensure workplaces are safe if they are asking you to return, as above.

If you remain concerned that your employer is not taking all practical steps to promote social distancing then you can report this to your local authority or the Health and Safety Executive who can take a range of action, including where appropriate requiring your employer to take additional steps.

 

What if they try to fire me because I won’t go to work but cannot work at home?

 Employers are urged to take socially responsible decisions and listen to the concerns of their staff. Employers and employees should come to a pragmatic agreement about their working arrangements.

If individuals need advice, they should approach ACAS where they can get impartial advice about work disputes.