Currently, if you test positive for covid you are advised to stay at home for five days but as we learn to live with it from the 1st April that guidance will also end and anyone with symptoms will be asked to “exercise personal responsibility”. UK employers and organisations must adopt, adapt and introduce workplace safety plans in a way that cares for staff and safeguards their health and wellbeing whilst also being aware that currently, no government guidelines are in place.
Below are a number of insightful tips for organisation leaders and HR managers to keep in mind as you adjust your workplace to maintain employee safety in a society without Covid restrictions.
Planning and management of workplace safety
The government has developed a ‘Living with Covid-19’ guidance. It is therefore crucial that employers also develop a workplace safety plan that considers the physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of the workforce.
Employers have a duty of care to ensure that a workplace is safe to work in and just because the government has changed its guidelines, it’s important to take the safest approach for your organisation and employees.
Key aspects that employers and organisations need to be aware of are:
- Their legal duty to manage risks to those affected by their business
- Actions to take to protect staff and customers
- Emphasis on the importance of ventilation
Health and safety measures and risk assessments
Updating and adapting health and safety measures and risk assessments is an important task for organisations to ensure that employees are safeguarded against the risk of infection, which can still, despite the changes in government guidance, have a huge impact on your day-to-day operations as a business.
Consider if you need to make long-term amendments to your health and safety procedures and risk assessments to include Covid safety measures. The feasibility of the measures and the sector that you operate in will have an impact on what Covid precautions are implemented.
When updating or adapting your health and safety guidance and risk assessments, it’s important to work closely with your health and safety and occupational health teams.
Additionally, regularly communicating to the wider team the practical measures being taken is important, as this will reassure them that their health, wellbeing and safety is a top priority.
Remember just because the Government requirements are no longer in place does not mean the company cannot introduce and enforce your own requirements. You may elect to still require a positive test isolate and work from home until they test negative or for 10 days whichever comes sooner. That is now a company rule, and as enforceable as any other company rule.
Mental health and wellbeing
Aside from the physical impact of Covid, it has had a long-term effect on people’s mental health and wellbeing,, from feeling anxious about public spaces, juggling difficult domestic situations, to dealing with illness, or bereavement.
If you already have in place an Employee Assistance Programme or access to Occupational Health advisers, signposting and making employees aware of these is vital, as they may need them now more than ever.
Managers should also be checking in with individuals on a regular basis to discuss any concerns and communicate the support available.
Whatever approach is taken by your organisation in managing Covid in the workplace as restrictions end, it is imperative that these are communicated effectively with the team.
It’s advisable to state your approach in some form of written communication, as well as regular virtual and face-to-face meetings to ensure that the message is relayed widely.
By engaging with your employees, you can understand how they feel and explain your decisions and choices. When making key decisions an organisation could look at holding consultations with teams to get their input.
Management, in particular line managers, plays an important part in an organisation as they need to be fully briefed and aware of the policies and expectations in place.
In addition to communicating the organisation’s guidelines, they need to be understanding and sympathetic of an individual’s needs and concerns, ensure that all levels of management are supported.
As we navigate our way out of the pandemic and adapt to ‘live with Covid’, as an organisation you want to ensure that employees feel valued, safe and supported and that their health and safety is a priority.
For additional support and information on how to implement and manage a Covid plan in the workplace, seek an independent HR advisor for guidance.