As you may be aware, as of the 19th July 2021, in England the Coronavirus Health Protection Regulations 2021 will no longer be legally enforceable. The regulations have changed to guidance.
With the legislation no longer enforcable, how should we, as health and safety professionals respond to the challenge of COVID and employee safety? You’ll still need to manage the risk, to your organisation and for your employees and the general public. Reading up on the latest guidance and speaking to colleagues across the industry, I’ve compiled my advice on how we should move forward against these changes.
Managing Health and Safety
Under the Management of Health and Safety Work Regulations (MHSWR) risk assessments must be reviewed following any changes in legislation, procedure and/or there has been an incident in the activity that the risk assessment covers.
Therefore, on Monday 19th July, you will need to review your COVID-19 risk assessment.
Although the regulations will be withdrawn, you will still need to manage the risk.
My advice is to go through the risk assessment and pick out the control measures that you would like to keep and add these to your office risk assessment, or any other risk assessment that you have in place covering your employees.
Think about keeping in place your cleaning regimes, clean desk policy, encouraging employees to wash their hands, increased ventilation and keeping the symptoms posters up.
Although the Government has said facemasks will not be mandatory, think about what is best for your employees and what settings you would like them to wear facemasks, for example, if you are having a meeting in a small room with the maximum capacity and the windows cannot open, maybe employees should be wearing facemasks if they are concerned.
Please note, some cities are making facemasks mandatory on public transport, including London’s underground. This advice is changing all the time, so be alert to changes in your local area.
Returning to the Office
The Government has also said that those who have been working from home can now return back to their workplace, apart from “steadily” no other guidance has been issued. I would recommend that if you want all of your employees back in the workplace, that you set a date for their return.
For example, set the date of 1st October, this gives approximately 10 weeks to phase back your employees, as your teams will want summer holidays or at least take some leave when the weather is good.
Communicate with your employees, be clear of your expectations and understand whether they have any anxiety about returning to the workplace, and what their concerns are. You may want to consider hybrid or flexible working, for example, asking different teams to work in the office Monday and Friday one week, and Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, the following week, this way you would have somebody in the office every day – this is all dependent on the nature of your organisation.
Finally, COVID-19 is going to be with us for some time so you should encourage your employees to have the vaccination. If they are able to, encourage your employees to look after both their physical and mental wellbeing – a happy workforce is a productive workforce.
For more information about anxiety and returning to the office, you can read an earlier article here.