COVID-19 and the Law
Hazard Related Topics
There is a lot of Legislation & Government Advice that comes into play in regard to COVID-19. Both employer and employee need to be aware of what their obligations are. The first one for consideration is the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 - Regulation 2 states that ‘It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees’. This will therefore mean employers keeping up to date with the health-related risks posed by controlling COVID-19 in the work environment. Any policy changes must reflect this requirement.
Next you have the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 - Regulation 3 states - all reasonably practicable steps must be taken so as to ensure the health, safety and welfare of your workers and anyone else impacted by your operations. This will therefore mean employers needing to keep up to date with the work-related risks posed by COVID-19, as well as planning and implementing all reasonably practicable risk reduction measures.
The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 may play a part in your post-COVID-19 working environment. An employer's obligations include that PPE must be appropriate for the risks and conditions involved, capable of fitting correctly and must be assessed as suitable and effective, so far as is reasonably practicable, to prevent or adequately control the risk. Employees must be given adequate information, instruction and training regarding any required PPE, which must also be maintained, cleaned and replaced as appropriate. Last but by no means least, all reasonably, practicable steps must be taken to ensure that any PPE is properly used and disposed of by staff members.
Additional considerations will also need to be made for vulnerable individuals, including those who are more susceptible to infection due to a disability. In the U.K., discrimination legislation provides additional protection for employees who are disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act, including that reasonable adjustments are made for disabled persons in certain circumstances to avoid any substantial disadvantage. If any staff fall under this category, then please make sure you have made sufficient arrangements for them in the workplace.
Recommendations For Employers
As part of planning a stepwise resumption of operations in the workplace, it will be necessary for an employer to follow the Government’s rules and any revisions as the rules are relaxed, particularly in relation to specific sectors.
To comply with Health and Safety criminal law, it will also be necessary for an employer to revise, renew or create your relevant risk assessments dealing with COVID-19 to encompass returning to work. Any COVID-19 returning to work plan(s) must identify the hazards and set out mitigation measures. At the end of the day we ALL need to do it right and take our responsibilities seriously.
There are a number of resources available below and there is further help in Practical Tips for Returning to Work Post COVID-19.