As the UK begins to wake from lockdown, the focus is now shifting to how we can avoid a second wave. Employers play a crucial role in implementing the national strategy as they are responsible for the management of the population at work. Companies can issue reasonable instructions to employees to protect both their own workforce and help towards controlling the virus from a national point of view.

The UK government has now announced that the advice to work from home will be relaxed from the beginning of August. The government has given employers the discretion to decide whether or not their workers return to work as long as their offices are safe from COVID. This announcement with the opening of public transport will result in increasing numbers of staff returning to work, especially in the London area. However, it is very clear that the onus is being placed on employers to assist the government in containing the virus.

The national track and trace system is voluntary however, employers can make it mandatory for their employees by issuing reasonable instructions to comply with while in the workplace.

What measures can employers consider?

  • Obtaining protective equipment such as face masks or visors,
  • Work out how to implement safe physical distancing measures including moving work stations,
  • Establishing a protocol with employees if someone suffers from the symptoms of COVID-19,
  • Consider allowing vulnerable staff to continue working from home,
  • Considering implementing daily temperature checks of staff members when entering the office environment,
  • Encouraging employees to undergo the antibody test once available,
  • Writing new health and safety policy specifically in relation to COVID-19,
  • Consider asking employees to use the NHS App which enables contact with a COVID-19 sufferer to be traced.

What if an employee tests positive for COVID-19?

If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, then the employer needs to have certain protocols in place. The employer needs to consider how the relevant members of staff are to be informed that an employee has tested positive for the virus. They should then have a requirement that any member of staff who has been ‘in contact’ with that member of staff remains at home, self-isolating, for at least 14 days and if they develop symptoms should inform the employer.

Cleanliness of the office workplace should also be considered and if an infected employee has occupied or visited the office then a deep-clean should take place, paying attention to objects and surfaces which the employee may have touched.

It is important that every employer implements safety measures to help control the virus so that a second wave can be avoided where possible. Read more information about the UK government’s COVID-19 recovery plan here and for any advice or additional help in this area, please get in touch.