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Government Issues Workplace Guidelines

13 May

Government Issues Workplace Guidelines

Following on from last week’s draft guidelines the Government has now provided formal, non-statutory guidance on Covid-19 and the workplace.

 Eight separate guides have been issued, dealing with different sectors and situations:- 

  • Construction and Other Outdoor work;
  • Factories, plants and warehouses;
  • Laboratories and research facilities;
  • Offices and contact centres;
  • Other people’s homes;
  • Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery;
  • Shops and branches;
  • Vehicles.

The individual guides offer guidance that is specific to the sector or the situation and it is not possible to cover all of that in a brief post.  Any sector–specific queries should be addressed to us. 

What can be said is that much of the key draft guidance disclosed last week seems to have made it into the final, formalised guidance.  Whilst employees are still required to work from home unless that is not possible, there is a common theme throughout the different guides suggesting that, if staff are to work in the workplace, there are measures that can and should be taken by employers to avoid the spread of the virus:

  • Increased frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning;
  • Screens and barriers erected in order to separate employees;
  • Back-to-back and side-to-side working between employees where possible (to avoid face-to-face working);
  • Fixed teams and partnering being introduced in order to reduce the number of people specific employees have contact with;
  • Staggered arrival and departure times for staff;
  • More entry points being identified at the workplace in order to reduce congestion when entering and leaving the building;

One interesting suggestion is the possibility that office meetings between staff be conducted in person, outside the office(naturally staff having to adhere to social distancing rules).  Presumably this option will be more attractive to those employees (if any exist) whose office backs onto a daisy-speckled meadow than to those whose office is situated next to a dual carriageway or in a concrete city centre!

An important point to note is that risk assessments will need to be carried out by employers who will be required to do everything “reasonably practicable” to eliminate the risk of staff catching the virus in the workplace.  Employers will need to consult with employees on health and safety matters; what constitutes “reasonable” is always a fluid concept but it is worth noting that the government guidance identifies that it is not possible to completely eliminate risk and thus employers won’t be expected to do the impossible.

It is also worth noting that for employers with fewer than five workers, and for the self-employed, their risk assessments do not need to be evidenced in writing.

For further information or advice, please contact Dax Keeling on 0114 249 5969 or email