Opening up businesses – Employers need to know COVID requirements
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In respect of your duties as employers the government have set out 8 requirements for employers to follow;
- Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment, including consideration of the reasonable adjustments needed for staff and customers with disabilities. Share it with all your staff.
- Clean more often. Increase how often you clean surfaces, especially those that are being touched a lot. Ask your staff and your visitors to use hand sanitiser and wash their hands frequently.
- Remind your visitors to wear face coverings where required to do so by law. That is especially important if your visitors are likely to be around people they do not normally meet.
- Make sure everyone is social distancing. Make it easy for everyone to do so by putting up signs or introducing a one-way system that your staff and visitors can follow.
- Provide adequate ventilation. This means supplying fresh air to enclosed space where people are present. It can be natural ventilation through windows, doors and vents, mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, or a combination of both.
- Take part in NHS Test and Trace by keeping a record of all staff and contractors for 21 days.
- Turn people with coronavirus symptoms away. If a staff member (or someone in their household) or a visitor has a persistent cough, a high temperature or has lost their sense of taste or smell, they should be isolating. Employers must not require someone who is being required to self-isolate to come to work. Any employer asking an employee to break self-isolation to work is committing an offence.
- Consider the mental health and wellbeing aspects of COVID-19 for yourself and others. The government has published guidance on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Employers are responsible for ensuring the health and safety of their employees so far as reasonably practicable, breach of this duty has serious consequences, including high fines and in some cases custodial sentences and therefore it is important that all staff members are following the guidelines.
Workers who refuse vaccination
There is no legal requirement for employees to have the vaccine and unless it is written into the contracts of the employees with their agreement. Furthermore, should you dismiss or treat an employee less favourably for not having the vaccine then the employee may have a claim for unfair dismissal / discrimination.
Workers working with unvaccinated workers
Employees who raise concerns about health and safety have special protections. The Employee Rights Act 1996 provides that an employee who is dismissed for raising health and safety concerns, for leaving or staying away from dangerous workplace or talking action to prevent danger are automatically unfairly dismissed and the usual two-year qualifying period for bringing a claim for unfair dismissal does not apply.
This leaves the position whereby the anti-vaccination worker cannot be dismissed without the risk of a claim and the vaccinated worker cannot be dismissed without risk of a claim, unfortunately the law around this issue does not give us great guidance on how to proceed, however we would suggest that the best way to proceed would be to follow the government guidelines where possible and allow employees to work from home if practical and requested by them. Furthermore, health and safety concerns should be minimised if the government 8 steps are followed and if necessary employers can look at separating employees who are vaccinated from the unvaccinated.
Employers must also be aware of the The Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/365) came into force in England, Wales and Scotland on 26 March 2020, which permit up to four weeks’ annual leave untaken due to the Covid-19 pandemic to be carried over to the next two leave years.
If any of the issues discussed are, or are likely to be, a concern, please do not hesitate to contact the author. Contact details below.