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Health and safety issues

The Government has issued new guidance for employers called ‘5 steps to working safely which includes important information for protecting the health and safety of their employees.

The Government has also issued specific guidance for schools to consider in respect of health and safety, which can be found here. The main additional considerations for schools is to consider staggering break times and drop off/pick up times, teaching in smaller groups and giving guidelines for social distancing in corridors.

The Health and Safety Executive has published important information for managing risk and risk assessment at work, along with new guidance on working safely during the coronavirus outbreak.

If there is anything in an updated risk assessment that staff need to comply with, this should be communicated to them. Employers should also state that disciplinary action may be taken if staff fail to follow the guidelines issued. 

One issue that could arise is if staff breach social distancing measures, whether in or out of the workplace, and employers may feel obliged to ask them to isolate. In this scenario, the employer would still be required to pay these individuals but could potentially avoid this by asking staff to confirm in writing that they understand the social distancing guidelines and that they agree should they breach these measures, the employer may decide to place them on unpaid leave for the period of isolation recommended by the Government.

How is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) going to change in August?

The Government has announced that the CJRS will be extended until the end of October 2020 but will change during August 2020:

The Government is aiming to provide detailed guidance of the changes by the end of May 2020. The main points to note so far is that from August 2020:

  • Employees will be able to return to work on a part-time basis.
  • Employers will be required to pay a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed employees.
  • The employer’s payments will substitute the 80%/£2,500 contribution under the CJRS.

Consultation with staff when returning to work

There is no formal obligation to speak with staff before they return to work. However, this would be good practice and would enable employers to identify any concerns or issues that may create difficulties for those returning to work. It may be that an employee is shielding or has childcare issues, but because they were furloughed anyway, this had not previously been discussed with the employer.

Data protection and testing

Many employers will be introducing some form of testing regime while COVID-19 endures – this could include anti-body or simple temperature checks. In order to make sure they comply with data protection law, employers should conduct a privacy impact assessment of the testing and update their employee privacy notice. The updated notice should then, where possible, be circulated to employees to make them aware of how the personal data collected when testing will be used. Further guidance for employers on workplace testing can be found on the ICO’s website here.

Please note, the information included in this update is correct at the date of publishing.

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