The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic is affecting every business in the UK and is likely to do so for months – the chances are you’ve already taken action to respond, but if you haven’t you would like to review what you are doing or you are looking at staff returning to work after the lock down, we’ve tried to cover some of the issues below. Obviously, this is a very fluid situation so we will try to keep the information in this blog up to date as far as possible.
Staff working at your office or site?
The law requires you to protect the health, safety and welfare of your staff (including non-employees, such as contractors) and prevent harm to any visitors to your offices and buildings. There’s a legal obligation on staff to cooperate with you on this.
You’re legally required to provide adequate toilet and washing facilities. This includes:
- Enough toilets and washbasins for those expected to use them
- Hot and cold running water
- Enough soap or other washing agents
- Hand towels (preferably disposable) or a hand-dryer
- Toilet paper
- Drinking water
Individuals with disabilities must be able to easily access the facilities.
Create a health and safety action plan
- Select someone to be responsible for monitoring the situation and reporting to management with regular updates.
- Conduct a risk assessment and monitor the risks posed by COVID-19 to anyone. Individuals at particular risk include those:
- with compromised immune systems;
- over 70;
- with certain pre-existing health conditions, e.g. cardiovascular disease, respiratory conditions or diabetes;
- who are pregnant.
- Ensure any control measures identified by the risk assessment comply with government advice. Take steps to reduce the risk to vulnerable staff identified by the risk assessment. If necessary, suspend pregnant employees on medical grounds. Note that:
- If a pregnant employee is on paid suspension or off sick in the 4th week before the expected week of childbirth, their statutory maternity leave will start early.
- You may have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled staff.
- Regularly pass on updates to staff and give them guidance on issues like:
- What the symptoms are and what they should do if they have them;
- When and how you should be notified if they’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 or in contact with someone who has;
- What you require them to do after being notified.
- Use Video Conferencing as opposed to meetings as far as reasonably practicable
- Ensure managers know how to spot possible symptoms of COVID-19 and are clear on any relevant processes, such as sickness reporting and sick pay.
- Decide what steps you’ll take if a staff member infected with COVID-19 attends the workplace. You should:
- Immediately communicate this to all staff (if possible, don’t name the person for data protection reasons)
- Confirm if the workplace will close (consider doing this to protect staff).
- Instruct staff to take work home with them (if possible)
- Contact your local public health authority in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. They’ll conduct a risk assessment and tell you what to do next.
- Increase the frequency and extent of cleaning in the workplace. Focus on shared areas and areas that may not often be cleaned, like doors and chair handles, light switches, keyboards and mice, telephones, desks and worktops, photocopiers and bannisters.
- Try to maintain supplies of soap, cleaning products, disinfectants and cleaning materials.
- Give staff access to tissues and antibacterial hand gel, wipes or sprays. Try to maintain supplies.
- Keep records of the number of staff who have:
- been diagnosed with COVID-19
- been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed
- shown potential COVID-19 symptoms, but haven’t been diagnosed
For data protection reasons, don’t collect more data than you need and use appropriate measures to safeguard it.
- Ensure staff contact and emergency contact details are up to date.
- Display COVID-19 information in the workplace and visitor areas.
- Advise visitors to follow your guidance on preventative measures.
Staff Working from Home
For staff that are already working from home or will continue to work from home after the Lockdown is eased.
Health and safety
You have the same duties as when they are in the workplace (see above), though they must take reasonable care of their own health and safety. Remind them to take breaks and not overwork or do anything that may risk their health and safety.
Ordinarily, you’d visit them at home to perform a risk assessment, but that’s not practical in the current situation. You could ask them to assess themselves by sending them a questionnaire about their workplace – look at their answers and tell them what action to take (if any).
Confirm who’s responsible for providing work equipment. This can depend on whether they already have the necessary equipment and any security or legal compliance risks
Ensure there are no IP restrictions or similar on the way company information is accessed so they can gain access from home
Let them know:
- That any equipment you provide is your property, must be looked after, and returned to you when no longer needed
- How costs incurred for personal use and work will be split, e.g. phone bills, and how to reclaim them
- What costs you won’t be responsible for, e.g. energy bills.
Security and confidentiality
Tell them how to keep equipment secure (e.g. installing security updates), and how to maintain confidentiality, particularly if they’re in customer-facing roles.
Give copies of your IT policies, and policies on compliance (e.g. data protection, bribery and corruption) and confidentiality.
Note that the Information Commissioner has advised that data protection laws don’t prevent home working, but that “you’ll need to consider the same kinds of security measures for homeworking that you’d use in normal circumstances”.
Inform staff that their line manager will remain responsible for supervising them and their performance measures and objectives will remain the same.
Reporting incidents under RIDDOR
Incident and accident reporting is fundamental in recording the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19).
The RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) have particular requirements during this time and the data the government process will help us understand the continued threat of this virus much better.
You must only make a report under RIDDOR when:
- An unintended incident at work has led to someone’s possible or actual exposure to coronavirus. This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence
- A worker has been diagnosed as having COVID 19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This must be reported as a case of disease
- A worker dies because of occupational exposure to coronavirus
For more information about RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19 visit the Health and Safety Executive website.
How can Functio help?
We have developed a number of documents to support businesses to work in line with their ISO Certifications and ensure they have all aspects of H&S and Information Security covered during this difficult time such as:-
- Office Risk Assessment for COVID-19
- Site Based Risk Assessment for COVID-19
- Home Working Risk Assessment
- Home Working Security Policy
- Use your Own Device Policy
To discuss the above or any other requirements please contact us and we can review your requirements and how we can support you
Is there help from the government?
- Support for businesses
- Help with paying tax
- Help with filing deadlines with Companies House.
- Guidance for employees, employers and businesses