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Just in time for “Freedom Day” the Government has released updated guidance on returning to the workplace

Just in time for “Freedom Day” the Government has released updated guidance on returning to the workplace Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance from Step 4 – offices, factories and labs .

There are six priority actions for employers arranging returns to work:

Risk Assessments

  • Update risk assessments regularly, taking into account the ways in which the virus can spread, and consider reasonable adjustments for employees and clients with disabilities.

The Return of Employees and Consultation

  • The guidance recommends a gradual return to work over the summer.
  • Employers should consult with employees about health and safety measures put in place to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID, as well as timing of return to work.
  • Many employers are considering hybrid working arrangements, with employees in the workplace part of the week and working from home part of the week. Where this is the case, discussion should be had with relevant employees or employee representatives.
  • Employers should be aware of concerns from high risk employees and those yet to have their second jab, and take advice from health providers where appropriate.

Mitigation Measures

  • Ventilation: ventilate offices. Dependant on the size, this could be as simple as opening doors and windows, or installing ventilation systems. Where ventilation options are limited, consider limiting the number of employees in the space.
  • Minimise social contact: Thus minimising transmission. If hot desking cannot be avoided, ensure cleaning between users, otherwise seek to continue the use of screens and socially distanced desks.
  • Face masks: Although no longer mandatory, The Guidance recommends the adoption of signage and other measures to encourage workers to continue to wear masks – particularly in areas where they encounter new people. Again, consider employees who may wish to continue wearing masks, and advise consideration.
  • Hygiene: customers and workers should be advised to wash their hands or use hand sanitiser frequently and surfaces should be cleaned regularly.

Self-Isolation

  • Self-isolation remains in place and mandatory for those who test positive, display symptoms of COVID or are a close contact of someone who tests positive, and it remains an offence to allow a worker to attend work when an employer knows they are self-isolating.
  • However, after 16 August 2021, under 18s and those who have received a second vaccine at least 10 days before the contact, will no longer be required to isolate due to a close contact testing positive.

Test and Trace

  • While employers are no longer obliged to collect Test and Trace check-in information for visitors and do not have to refuse entry to those who refuse to provide it, the Guidance recommends that employers continue to display NHS QR posters and that alternative record systems should be made available to those who do not have the NHS app but wish to check in.
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