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New government guidance to get England back to work

Yesterday evening the government published guidance designed to "make workplaces as safe as possible and give people confidence to go back to work during the coronavirus pandemic".

There are eight documents available under the Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance which apply to the following sectors:

  • Construction and outdoor work
  • Factories, plants and warehouses
  • Labs and research facilities
  • Offices and contact centres
  • Other people's homes
  • Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery
  • Shops and branches
  • Vehicles

These guides all contain five practical steps which, the government says, should be "implemented as soon as it is practical". 

The guidance applies to England only. Public health is devolved in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and businesses in those countries must follow their devolved government's advice.

1. Work from home, if you can

Employers are asked to take "all reasonable steps" to help people working from home. However, for those who cannot work from home and whose workplace has not been told to close, the government's advice is that they should go to work.

2. Carry out a risk assessment

Employers must carry out a specific COVID-19 risk assessment in consultation with its workers or trade union to establish what guidelines to put in place. If you employ over 50 workers, you must publish this on your website.

3. Maintain social distancing 

Employers are asked to re-design workspaces to maintain two metre distances between people "whenever possible" by staggering start times, creating one way walk-throughs, opening more entrances and exit, or changing seating layouts in break rooms.

4. Manage transmission risk if social distancing can't be maintained

Employers should put barriers in shared spaces, creating workplace shift patterns or fixed teams to minimise the number of people in contact with one another, or ensure colleagues are facing away from each other.

5. Reinforcing cleaning processes

Workplaces should be cleaned more frequently, paying close attention to high-contact objects like door handles and keyboards. Employers should provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points.

A downloadable notice is included in the documents, which employers should display in their workplaces to show their employees, customers and other visitors to their workplace, that they have followed this guidance.

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