These are unprecedented times. Lockdown has changed our lives beyond recognition. We home school, we don’t go to work; we stay home, we don’t get together; we wash our hands countless times and wear masks to the shops; we stand two-metres apart and we don’t hug anymore. But above all, we stand together in the joint fight against COVID-19. The courage and dedication of our nation, from Captain Tom to care-workers, gives us all the strength and solidarity to carry on.
And carry on we must, as lockdown measures begin to ease and the Government performs the tricky balancing act between re-starting the economy and safeguarding the workforce that drives it. Not a day goes by without the stark reminder that there is a killer in our midst. Returning to work involves facing the fear of COVID-19. Where there is fear, the reaction is ‘fight or flight’, and with that the potential for conflict. Reducing fear and creating confidence in a safe workplace will encourage staff back to work, reduce the likelihood of refusals to return and limit litigation where potential claims arise.
It is your legal duty as an employer to provide a safe place for your staff to work. You must take all reasonable steps to protect your staff from health and safety risks. This includes exposure to the deadly COVID-19 virus. Providing safe-guards not only benefits your employees, but will also provide you with protection from conflict and litigation as your workplace opens for business and you ask your staff to return to work.
Employees have the right not to be dismissed, or treated detrimentally, for refusing to return to work in circumstances of danger which they reasonably believe to be serious and imminent. For as long as COVID-19 is at large, and no vaccine is available, each and every workplace potentially poses a serious danger for employees.
Following Government Guidance is the recommended minimum to taking reasonable steps to protect your staff. This will help create confidence that coming back to work is safe and reduce the scope for any reasonable belief in serious and imminent danger from COVID-19.
The Government Guidance details the essential “three Cs” to being COVID-19 Secure:
- Comprehend – Do a risk assessment/understand the risks;
- Commit – Implement protective measures/minimise the risks;
- Communicate – Consult with staff/agree the risks and measures.
We urge you to consider the Guidance and follow it. To help you meet your legal obligations and follow the Government Guidance we have prepared a Return to Work Toolkit for you, comprising:
These are available on our website.
This blog does not constitute legal advice and liability for reliance on the views and opinions expressed is excluded. Specific advice on your own particular circumstances should always be sought.
If you require specific legal advice please contact Katie Bird at Burnetts on 01228 552222 or firstname.lastname@example.org and she will put you in touch with the Employment team who will be happy to assist you.