COVID-19 advice

The information in this blog is correct as at 7 April 2020. For the most up-to-date Employment Law and Health & Safety advice to support your organisation through the COVID-19 pandemic, visit our Coronavirus Advice Hub, which is updated daily and contains a variety of free guidance notes, letter templates, checklists, risk assessments and more.

On 3 April 2020, a joint statement was issued by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Confederation of British industry (CBI) calling upon employers to ensure safe working conditions during the coronavirus outbreak.

In it, they stress the importance of maintaining the health and safety of workers and the enforcement action that they will pursue in light of organisations breaching guidance from Public Health England on social distancing. They state:

“This is an extremely worrying time for firms and workers. We know many workers, union reps and employers have questions and concerns about safe working – especially for those continuing to work away from home.

This joint statement between the Health and Safety Executive, the TUC and the CBI is intended to clarify the position. The health and safety of workers remains paramount. Employers are and must continue to provide workers with information about risks to their health and the actions their employers must take.

Social distancing is a key public health measure introduced by Public Health England to reduce the spread of infection. Most employers are going to great lengths to ensure social distancing wherever possible. The HSE, CBI and TUC wish to publicly support these efforts. Firms that can safely stay open and support livelihoods should not be forced to close by misunderstandings about Government guidance.

But if it comes to the HSE’s attention that employers are not complying with the relevant Public Health England guidance (including enabling social distancing where it is practical to do so), HSE will consider a range of actions ranging from providing specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices, including prohibition notices.

Where a worker has a genuine concern about health and safety which cannot be resolved through speaking with their employer or trade union, they should contact the relevant enforcement agency – either their local authority, or the HSE through

 https://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/concerns.htm

For firms who are unsure about the guidance, please visit

 https://www.hse.gov.uk/news/social-distancing-coronavirus.htm

Nick Wilson

Director of Health & Safety Services

Expert Comment

Employers should be in no doubt that the HSE will be looking for assurances that employers are adhering to the guidance provided by Public Health England (including enabling social distancing where it is practical to do so). If they are not, enforcement action may be taken, including the issuing of prohibition notices that may stop certain activities from being carried out, Fee for Intervention charges being applied and, in the most extreme circumstances, prosecution. Employers should also be alert to the mechanism available to employees to complain to the HSE if they are not satisfied that their employer is taking reasonable steps to protect their safety. These complaints will be followed up by the regulator.

Changes to the reporting of COVID-19 incidents under RIDDOR

In a second key development on 3 April, the HSE has now issued clarification on when to report a COVID-19 incident.

It identifies two specific circumstances in which a report under RIDDOR (the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) should be made.

These are:

  • 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 under RIDDOR regulation 7, Schedule 2 – Section 10, which says ‘Any accident or incident which results or could have resulted in the release or escape of a biological agent likely to cause severe human infection or illness.
  • When a worker has been diagnosed of any disease attributed to an occupational exposure to a biological agent and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work, this must be reported as a case of disease under RIDDOR regulation 9 (b).

Details of how to make a report are provided on the HSE website.

Nick Wilson

Director of Health & Safety Services

Expert Comment

This is possibly the most controversial advice from the HSE so far and it creates further uncertainty. For example, what does it mean by “diagnosed”? Could it mean that your employee is displaying the symptoms but has had no blood test to confirm? Further confusion surrounds the requirement for it to have been “caused by exposure at work”. How will an employer determine if there is reasonable evidence to demonstrate that is the case? We suggest you reach out to your Health & Safety Consultant for further advice should you find yourself in this situation.

Stay informed with our Coronavirus Advice Hub

Want to make sure you hear about government and regulatory developments that may impact your business and its activities? In need of practical advice on control measures and your legal duties? Created by our Health & Safety specialists, our Coronavirus Advice Hub is a free source of regularly updated information, guidance notes and risk assessment templates designed to simplify your COVID-19 responsibilities and keep people safe.

ONLINE TRAINING | IOSH Safety for Executives and Directors

Looking to improve your understanding of health and safety, demonstrate your commitment to employee wellbeing, and protect your business from prosecution? Learn essential skills in effective risk management, including how to create a COVID-secure workplace, with this one-day course for business owners, senior managers and directors.

29 September 2020 | 09:00 – 16:30

Director of Health & Safety Services

Nick Wilson

Health and safety should be a priority for any business but ensuring compliance can often feel like a daunting task. We’re here to help you turn complex regulations into sensible, proportionate controls.

Our live Client satisfaction rating is currently:

Last Updated:

Urgent Issue?

Why not take a look through our library of carefully created Health & Safety documents and templates to see if we have what you need?

Let's start talking on 0345 226 8393 or complete the form below.

More From EW

Get your FREE download

We combine the service quality of a law firm with the certainty of fixed-fee services to provide expert, solutions-focused Employment LawHR and Health & Safety support tailored to employers.

Call us on 0345 226 8393.

Combating coronavirus | FREE advice and resources for employers

Our Coronavirus Advice Hub is open now. Get instant access to regularly updated guidance, sample policies, template risk assessments and more.
 
Click to explore what’s available.

Get your FREE download

We combine the service quality of a law firm with the certainty of fixed-fee services to provide expert, solutions-focused Employment LawHR and Health & Safety support tailored to employers.

Call us on 0345 226 8393.

Get your FREE download

We combine the service quality of a law firm with the certainty of fixed-fee services to provide expert, solutions-focused Employment LawHR and Health & Safety support tailored to employers.

Call us on 0345 226 8393.

Hi, how can we help?
Click the button below to chat to an expert.

Is Your Business Based in Scotland?

Go straight to our free sector-specific Risk Assessment Templates for Scottish organisations…
 
Click to explore what’s available.
Error: Embedded data could not be displayed.
Read our Privacy Policy.