Editor, Safety & Health Practitioner

Author Bio ▼

Ian joined Informa (formerly UBM) in 2018 as the Editor of SHP. Ian studied journalism at university before spending seven years in online fantasy gaming. Prior to moving to Informa, Ian worked in business to business trade print media, in the automotive sector. He was Online Editor and then moved on to be the Editor of two publications aimed at independent automotive technicians and parts distributors.
January 19, 2022

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COVID-19

Coronavirus advice for employers

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has said that Plan B COVID-19 restrictions will end on Thursday 27 January, meaning businesses are to start to prepare to welcome people back into workplaces and the wearing of face masks will no longer be mandatory anywhere.

coronavirus

During a speech in the House of Commons on Wednesday 19 January, Boris Johnson told ministers that that the latest data shows that infections levels are falling, and scientists believe the Omicron wave has peaked nationally. Mr Johnson added that, whist there remains some pressure in some areas, hospital admissions have stabilised. Because of these he says the cabinet concluded the country can return to Plan A measures in England from Thursday 27 January.

What does the end of Plan B COVID measures mean?

  • The end of mandatory COVID passes in England, with businesses allowed to use them if they choose
  • Mandatory face masks will end, including in classrooms for secondary students and on public transport – meaning people will not be criminalised for choosing not to wear them
  • The end to work from home guidance
  • Restrictions on care homes will be eased (further details to be released)
  • However, there will still be a legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive for COVID-19, but that there will ‘soon be a time’ when self-isolation guidance can be removed entirely.

Mr Johnson said that the decision reflects the government’s intention to trust the British people to make the right choices. He added that the government will set out its long-term strategy for living with COVID and how to avoid restrictions in the future.

However, the Prime Minister continued to urge caution during the last weeks of winter. He said that the pandemic is not over and adds that Omicron is “not a mild disease for everyone, especially if you are not vaccinated”.

Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, has said he will back the changes, ‘if the science says it is safe’ and has called for Boris Johnson to release the scientific evidence behind his decision.

MHFA Chief Executive, Simon Blake, says there is ‘no space for a one size fits all approach’ and calls for employers to take a ‘fluid approach to workplace wellbeing’.

Face masks to remain mandatory on public transport in London

corona face maskFollowing Boris Johnson’s announcement, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said that, whilst the news is good, people will still be required to wear face coverings when travelling on London’s public transport.

In a statement he said that, despite the ‘fantastic’ efforts of everyone in the city, “this is not the end of our fight against the virus. COVID-19 still poses a significant threat to all of us, our livelihoods and our loved ones.

“If we have learnt anything from this pandemic, it is that we must not get complacent and undo all our hard work and sacrifices. That’s why face coverings will remain a condition of carriage on TfL services. I’m asking everyone in our capital to do the right thing and continue to wear a face covering when travelling on TfL services to keep us all protected and to prevent further restrictions from being necessary later down the line.

Confirmatory PCR tests to be temporarily suspended for positive lateral flow test results.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that, from 11 January in England, people who receive positive lateral flow device (LFD) test results for coronavirus will be required to self-isolate immediately and won’t be required to take a confirmatory PCR test.

This is a temporary measure while COVID-19 rates remain high across the UK. Whilst levels of COVID-19 are high, the vast majority of people with positive LFD results can be confident that they have COVID-19.

The PM warned, at a Downing Street press conference on 4 January, that this is a moment for the ‘utmost caution’.

He said: “Anyone who thinks our battle with COVID is over is, I’m afraid, profoundly wrong.

“But our position today differs from previous waves in two crucial respects. First, we now know that Omicron is milder than previous variants, so while hospital admissions are rising quickly, this is not yet, thankfully, translating into the same numbers needing intensive care that we saw in previous waves.

“And second, thanks to the fantastic national effort to get Britain boosted, we now have a substantial level of protection.

The new approach reflects similar changes made this time last year in January 2021, when there was also a high prevalence of infection meaning it was highly likely that a positive LFD COVID-19 result was a true positive. This meant confirmatory PCRs were temporarily paused and reintroduced in March 2021 following a reduction in prevalence.

There are a few exceptions to this revised approach.

First, people who are eligible for the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment (TTSP) will still be asked to take a confirmatory PCR if they receive a positive LFD result, to enable them to access financial support.

Second, people participating in research or surveillance programmes may still be asked to take a follow-up PCR test, according to the research or surveillance protocol.

Finally, around one million people in England who are at particular risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 have been identified by the NHS as being potentially eligible for new treatments. They will be receiving a PCR test kit at home by mid-January to use if they develop symptoms or if they get a positive LFD result, as they may be eligible for new treatments if they receive a positive PCR result. This group should use these priority PCR tests when they have symptoms as it will enable prioritised laboratory handling.

In line with the reduced self-isolation approach announced on 22 December, anyone who tests positive will be able to leave self-isolation 7 days after the date of their initial positive test if they receive 2 negative LFD results, 24 hours apart, on days 6 and 7.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid said: “We have built a world-leading testing system and our testing capacity is the largest in Europe. This has helped save lives and protect millions of people from COVID-19. It forms a crucial line of defence alongside vaccines and antivirals.

“As Omicron cases continue to rise the demand for tests has grown rapidly across the globe. We’re putting plans in place to manage the demand for PCR tests in the UK so we can ensure that those who most need tests can continue to access them.”

Chief Executive of UKHSA, Dr Jenny Harries, said: “While cases of COVID-19 continue to rise, this tried-and-tested approach means that LFDs can be used confidently to indicate COVID-19 infection without the need for PCR confirmation.

“It remains really important that anyone who experiences COVID-19 symptoms self-isolates immediately.  They should also order a PCR test on GOV.UK or by phoning 119.

“I’m really grateful to the public and all of our critical workers who continue to test regularly and self-isolate when necessary, along with other practical and important public health behaviours, as this is the most effective way of stopping the spread of the virus and keeping our friends, families and communities safe.”

Self-isolation for those with COVID-19 can end after 5 full days following 2 negative LFD tests

From Monday 17 January, people with COVID-19 in England can end their self-isolation after 5 full days, as long as they test negative on day 5 and day 6.

The decision has been made after careful consideration of modelling from the UK Health Security Agency and to support essential public services and workforces over the winter.

It is crucial that people isolating with COVID-19 wait until they have received 2 negative rapid lateral flow tests on 2 consecutive days to reduce the chance of still being infectious.

The first test must be taken no earlier than day 5 of the self-isolation period, and the second must be taken the following day. If an individual is positive on day 5, then a negative test is required on day 6 and day 7 to release from isolation.

It is essential that 2 negative rapid lateral flow tests are taken on consecutive days and reported before individuals return to their job or education, if leaving self-isolation earlier than the full 10-day period.

For instance, if an individual is positive on day 5, then a negative test is required on both day 6 and day 7 to release from self-isolation, or positive on day 6, then a negative test is required on days 7 and 8, and so on until the end of day 10.

Those who leave self-isolation on or after day 6 are strongly advised to wear face coverings and limit close contact with other people in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces, work from home if they can do so and minimise contact with anyone who is at higher risk of severe illness if infected with COVID-19.

The default self-isolation period continues to be 10 days, and you may only leave self-isolation early if you have taken 2 rapid lateral flow tests and do not have a temperature in line with guidance.

Omicron: What COVID rules were toughened in the UK?

Managing COVID throughout autumn and winter

Boris Johnson said, in a Downing Street press conference on 14 August, that the data continues to show  the link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths has weakened significantly, putting that down to the ‘phenomenal success of the vaccination programme’.

He said: “We have more than 80% of all over-16s now double jabbed, double vaccinated, and we have COVID antibodies in around 90% of the adult population.

And those vaccines are working. We have seen the extraordinary vaccine-induced falls in deaths and serious disease.”

In England, the number of hospital admissions with COVID has remained relatively stable over the last month.

And although deaths increased at the beginning of the summer, they have remained far below the levels in either of the previous waves.

Over autumn and winter, the government will aim to sustain this progress through:

  • Building our defences through pharmaceutical interventions
  • Identifying and isolating positive cases to limit transmission
  • Supporting the NHS and social care
  • Advising people on how to protect themselves and others
  • Pursuing an international approach

Vaccines will continue to be our first line of defence. All those who were vaccinated during Phase 1 of the vaccine programme (priority groups 1 to 9) will be offered booster jabs from this month – to boost immunity amongst the most vulnerable groups during winter.

The Test, Trace and Isolate programme will continue its important work, with symptomatic PCR testing continuing throughout the autumn and winter.

Lateral flow tests will also remain free of charge but at a later stage, as our response to the virus changes, this will end and individuals and businesses will be expected to bear the cost. The government will engage widely on this before any changes are made.

The legal obligation to self-isolate for those who have tested positive and their unvaccinated contacts will continue, and the financial support payment for those self-isolating on certain benefits will continue in its current format until the end of March.

The PM said that the NHS will continue to get the support it needs, with an extra £5.4 billion recently announced for the next six months alone for the COVID response.

The public will be offered continued guidance on how to protect themselves and each other – including letting fresh air in, wearing a face covering in crowded and enclosed place where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet, getting testing and self-isolating if required.

Our tough border policy will remain in place and genomic sequencing capability will be increased to help scientists update our vaccines to defeat new variants.

As the PM also set out, autumn and winter could pose renewed challenges and it is difficult to predict the path of the virus with certainty.

So as the public would expect, there will be a range of ‘Plan B’ measures kept under review to help control transmission of the virus while minimising economic and social damage.

Plan B would include:

  • Introducing mandatory vaccine only COVID status certification in certain, riskier settings.
  • Legally mandating face coverings in certain settings, such as public transport and shops.
  • Communicating clearly and urgently to the public if the risk level increases.

The government could also consider asking people to work from home again if necessary, but a final decision on this would be made at the time, dependent on the latest data – recognising the extra disruption this causes to individuals and businesses.

Ministers would only decide to implement these measures if necessary, and if a range of metrics and indicators mean the NHS is at risk of becoming overwhelmed.

Plan B recognises the success of our vaccination programme – meaning smaller interventions which are far less disruptive can have a much bigger impact on reducing the spread.

The Prime Minister committed to taking whatever action is necessary to protect the NHS, but stressed his belief that the combined efforts of the public and the vaccination programme mean we can avoid plan B and protect our freedoms in the coming months.

16 August – Cabinet Office updates guidance

The Cabinet Office has updated its guidance to improve clarity. It highlights that, although most legal restrictions have been lifted at Step 4 and many people have been vaccinated, it is still possible to catch and spread COVID-19, even if you are fully vaccinated.

Scroll down to see the latest, following restrictions being lifted in England at Step 4, as well as the latest workplace advice.

The full guidance can be found here.

Adults and children were free to return to work, attend school, and meet friends and family as the protection from vaccines replaces the need for contact isolation from Monday 16 August. From that date, people who are double jabbed or aged under 18 are no longer legally required to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case.

The change, which was announced in July, is the latest part of step 4 of the government’s COVID-19 roadmap. With 75% of people having received both doses of the vaccine, the majority of adults will no longer need to self-isolate if they are contacts.

Double-jabbed individuals and under 18s who are identified as close contacts by NHS Test and Trace will be advised to take a PCR test as soon as possible to check if they have the virus and for variants of concern. But, they will no longer be required to self-isolate while they wait for the results of the PCR test.

Double-vaccinated adults are also not required to self-isolate, as long as they received their final dose of an MHRA-approved vaccine in the UK vaccination programme at least 14 days prior to contact with a positive case.

Anyone who tests positive following the PCR test will still be legally required to self-isolate, irrespective of their vaccination status or age in order to break onward chains of transmission. Meanwhile anyone who develops COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate and get a PCR test, and remain in isolation until the result comes back.

When to self-isolate in ENGLAND

Self-isolate straight away and get a PCR test (a test that is sent to the lab) on GOV.UK as soon as possible if you have any of these 3 symptoms of COVID-19, even if they are mild:

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

You should also self-isolate straight away if:

Step 4: Plans on “living with COVID”

On July 19, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, set out his plans for “living with COVID”.

  • Face masks will no longer be legally required
  • The 1m-plus social distancing rule will end
  • All legal restrictions on numbers meeting indoors and outdoors will be removed
  • All businesses, including nightclubs, can reopen
  • Table service rules at bars and restaurants and venue check-in requirements will end
  • The limit on the number of named visitors to care homes will be lifted
  • Capacity limits for concerts, theatres and sports events will also be removed
  • Guidance instructing people to work from home where possible will be lifted
  • Council powers to enforce rules will expire
  • The interval between vaccine doses for under-40s will be reduced from twelve weeks to eight – meaning everyone over 18 should be double-jabbed by mid-September
    • This is in addition to an autumn programme for booster jabs for the most vulnerable
  • The government will move away from legal restrictions to allow people to make “informed decisions” about how to manage the virus.

Coronavirus restrictions: How to stay safe and help prevent the spread

This government document has been updated following the Prime Minister’s statement on the autumn and winter plan, on September 14.

It stresses that it is still possible to catch and spread COVID-19, even if you are fully vaccinated. COVID-19 will be a feature of our lives for the foreseeable future, so we need to learn to live with it and manage the risk to ourselves and others.

It suggests that everyone can play their part by understanding the situations where risks of COVID-19 infection and transmission are likely to be higher and taking action to reduce these risks.

Following this guidance aims to help the reader understand situations where there is a greater risk of catching or spreading COVID-19 and the steps that can be taken to stay safe and protect others.

Businesses are advised to follow the principles set out in the working safely guidance. Employers still have a legal duty to manage risks to those affected by their business. The way to do this is to carry out a health and safety risk assessment, including the risk of COVID-19, and to take reasonable steps to mitigate the risks you identify. The working safely guidance sets out a range of mitigations employers should consider including:

  • Identifying poorly ventilated areas in the venue, for example by using a CO2 monitor, and taking steps to improve air flow in these areas.
  • Ensuring that staff and customers who are unwell do not attend the workplace or venue.
  • Providing hand sanitiser to enable staff and customers to clean their hands more frequently, and cleaning surfaces that people touch regularly.
  • Communicating to staff and customers the measures you have put in place.

Businesses are also encouraged to continue displaying NHS QR codes for attendees wishing to check in using the NHS COVID-19 app so they are alerted if there’s an outbreak and can take action to protect others, however this is no longer a legal requirement.

You can find the latest How to stay safe and help prevent the spread, here.

COVID-19 workplace advice

All businesses are advised to follow the principles set out in the government’s working safely guidance. Whilst the government is no longer instructing people to work from home if they can, the government would expect and recommend a gradual return over the summer.

Employers still have a legal duty to manage risks to those affected by their business. The way to do this is to carry out a health and safety risk assessment, including the risk of COVID-19, and to take reasonable steps to mitigate the risks you identify. The working safely guidance sets out a range of mitigations employers should consider including:

  • Cleaning surfaces that people touch regularly.
  • Identifying poorly ventilated areas in the venue and taking steps to improve air flow.
  • Ensuring that staff and customers who are unwell do not attend the workplace or venue.
  • Communicating to staff and customers the measures you have put in place.

Businesses are also encouraged to continue displaying QR codes for customers wishing to check in using the NHS COVID-19 app, or to continue collecting customer contact details to support NHS Test and Trace, however this will no longer be a legal requirement.

The full guidance can be found here.

Going to the workplace during COVID-19

Acas has reviewed its guidance for reopening workplaces, it advises that employers consider:

  • flexible working arrangements
  • making reasonable adjustments
  • keeping the workplace safe
  • how the workplace might reopen.

Once workplaces are open, following government advice is important. Face coverings should be worn where required, and social distancing maintained where possible. Workplaces must be kept clean and ventilated.

By law, employers have a ‘duty of care’ for staff, customers and anyone else who visits the workplace.

Employers must:

  • do all they reasonably can to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of people at work
  • complete a risk assessment, and take reasonable steps to prevent harm
  • consult staff on any decisions that involve health and safety.

Employers and employees also have responsibilities for health, safety and wellbeing when staff are working remotely, for example working from home.

The full guidance, which also covers talking to employees about workplace changes, addressing staff concerns, and advice for those returning to work after having COVID, is available here.

Workplace testing for coronavirus

There is no law that says staff must be tested for coronavirus, however some employers might want to bring in testing as part of their workplace policy says this guidance from Acas.

If an employer wants to test staff for COVID-19, they should first talk with either:

  • staff
  • a recognised trade union or other employee representatives

It’s a good idea to discuss:

  • how testing would be carried out
  • how staff would get their test results
  • the process to follow if someone tests positive for COVID-19
  • pay if someone needs to self-isolate but cannot work from home
  • how someone’s absence would be recorded if they need to take time off work
  • how testing data will be used, stored and deleted, in line with data protection law (UK GDPR)

Any decision after that discussion should be:

  • put in writing, for example in a workplace policy
  • made in line with the organisation’s existing disciplinary and grievance policy

If the employer cannot reach agreement with staff, it’s a good idea to get legal advice before bringing in a testing policy.

Click here for the full Workplace testing for coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance.

In Scotland

New measures required to slow the spread of Coronavirus

(Scotland)

As Omicron continues to spread, the Scottish Government has set out new guidance and measures to take effect from 17 December to stem the flow of transmission, keep businesses and services open, and protect against pressure on health services.

Evidence shows that the new, highly transmissible Omicron strain of COVID-19 can infect those who have been vaccinated, or previously infected. Therefore, it is considered necessary to reintroduce some protections to prevent hospital admissions.

Guidance has been updated on reducing social interaction at home or in indoor public places to a maximum of three households at any time, with everyone encouraged to take a lateral flow test before meeting. This will also be reflected in updated guidance for visiting care homes – with no more than two households to visit a resident at a time – and in hospitals, with no more than two visitors at any time. In all settings, people should take a lateral flow test before meeting, to support people to continue to connect with their loved ones.

Additional funding of £100 million to ensure the Self-Isolation Support Grant is available to those who need it, and a £100 million financial package for eligible businesses is to be made available.

Business support funding has been allocated to enhance adherence to the necessary public health measures and support businesses in hospitality, and food supply and in the culture sector that have lost crucial bookings during this key trading period.

The COVID-19 booster programme continues to accelerate, with the online portal for 18-29 year-olds opening on 15 December and the waiting period following vaccination reduced from 15 minutes to five minutes. COVID-19 booster jabs will be prioritised over the remainder of the flu vaccination programme to speed up vaccination times and enable more appointments.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Getting fully vaccinated is the best thing any of us can do to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and the country. So please, book your booster jab as soon as possible. Speeding up vaccination is essential and I want to assure the nation that it is the government’s top priority.

“While we are speeding up vaccination, we must also try to slow down Omicron. That is why we are also proposing today, albeit reluctantly, some further protective measures. I am appealing to everyone to follow today’s advice, to help slow Omicron down while more of us get our boosters.

“I am not asking anyone to ‘cancel’ Christmas – but in the run up to and in the immediate aftermath of Christmas, I am asking everyone to reduce as far as possible, and to a minimum, the contacts we have with people in other households.

“We are not banning or restricting household mixing in law as before – we understand the negative impact this has on mental health and wellbeing – but we are asking everyone, and we will issue strong guidance to this effect, to cut down as far as possible the number of people outside our own households that we are interacting with just now. This will help break transmission chains.

“Turning to Christmas Day specifically – or Christmas Eve or Boxing Day or whenever you have your main family celebration – we are not asking you to cancel or change your plans, and we are not proposing limits on the size of household gatherings. Places of worship will also remain open, with appropriate mitigations. But we will issue guidance to help you make Christmas safer.

“Omicron will be especially concerning to people on the Highest Risk List – the Chief Medical Officer will be writing to all of you shortly with further advice and assurance.”

The additional measures include:

  • businesses, service providers and places of worship asked to take all reasonable measures to avoid crowding, encourage wearing of masks and support distancing in their premises
  • guidance to ensure that people who can work from home, do so – for those in sectors where working from home is not possible, regular testing with lateral flow tests should be undertaken
  • reinforcement of protective measures in retail and other settings including distancing, managing customer flows, and protective screens
  • reinforcement of protective measures in hospitality settings including collection of contact tracing information and measures to reduce crowding
  • guidance to increase mask wearing in outdoor crowded areas such as Christmas markets or festive celebrations.

The Scottish Government’s strong recommendation continues to be that everyone should take a lateral flow test beforehand, on any occasion that you will be meeting another household, as an important way we can all reduce the risk of unknowingly spreading the virus to other people.

It remains vitally important to strictly adhere to all public health advice, being stringent around use of face coverings in all required settings, isolating for the full period when advised to, and ensuring good ventilation in spaces where households will mix.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Scotland’s Strategic Framework Update – November 2021

This update of the Scottish Government’s Strategic Framework sets out its latest approach to managing the pandemic.

The Framework sets out the various elements of the approach to managing the pandemic in Scotland.  Since the last update to the Strategic Framework in June 2021, restrictions have eased but several legal measures have been retained as well as guidance to help keep the virus under control.

The COVID-19 vaccination programme has continued to roll out and expand in coverage so that 88% of the adult population is now double vaccinated and a booster programme is underway.

Increasing vaccination coverage has driven rising immunity in Scotland. This enabled the move ‘beyond Level 0’ and the lifting of most restrictions during the course of the summer as planned.

This update sets out progress against the range of strategies being deployed across government and the broader public sector in Scotland in response to the coronavirus pandemic and explains the Scottish Government’s approach to the future management of the pandemic.

The document is available here.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Domestic Vaccine Certification: Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment

The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Requirements) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 2) Regulations 2021 (the ‘Regulations’) are made under powers to make provision for the purpose of preventing, protecting against, controlling or providing a public health response to the incidence or spread of infection, conferred on the Scottish Ministers by schedule 19 of the Coronavirus Act 2020. They amend the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Requirements) (Scotland) Regulations 2021 (the ‘Principal Regulations’).

This document, issued by the Scottish Government, considers the impacts for businesses and consumers of laying the Regulations under the Coronavirus Act 2020 to mandate the domestic use of COVID Vaccine Certification (referred to as ‘Certification’ hereafter) in higher risk settings.

Certification will require certain venues and settings to ensure that ‘there is in operation a reasonable system’ for establishing that all people in the premises can demonstrate that they are fully vaccinated (possess Certification) (unless they fall into one of the exempt categories), and to refuse access to or remove anyone who is neither fully vaccinated or exempt. Fully vaccinated means that a person has completed a full course of an authorised vaccine, with the final dose having been received 14 days before the date on which they seek to enter the late night premises or relevant event.

Initially, the scheme will not include a negative test result as an alternative to proof of vaccination, but this will be kept under review. At this stage, we do not consider that including testing results would be appropriate and, indeed, it could undermine one of the policy aims of the scheme: to increase vaccine uptake. Also, it is important at this stage to prioritise PCR lab capacity for Test and Protect purposes. While promoting regular lateral flow tests (LFD) tests is an extremely important aspect of our overall approach, further work would be required on an optimal approach to incorporating testing into Certification, including consideration of the appropriateness of self-testing in this context.

The scheme will apply in the following higher risk settings:

  • Late night premises with music, which serve alcohol after midnight and have a designated place for customers to dance.
  • Indoor events (unseated) planned for 500 or more people at any one time.
  • Outdoor events (unseated) planned for 4,000 or more people at any one time.
  • Any event planned for more than 10,000 people at any one time.

The following will not qualify as events for the purposes of the scheme:

  • A funeral, marriage ceremony, civil partnership registration, or a reception or gathering which relates to a funeral, marriage ceremony or civil partnership registration.
  • A mass participation event such as a marathon, triathlon or charity walk.
  • An event designated by the Scottish Ministers as a flagship event according to criteria, and in a list, published by the Scottish Ministers.
  • Showing in a cinema.
  • A drive-in event.
  • An organised picket.
  • A public or street market.
  • An illuminated trail.
  • A work or business conference (except any peripheral reception or function outside the core hours of the conference, whether or not alcohol is served).
  • A business or trade event which is not open to the public for leisure purposes.
  • Communal religious worship.
  • An un-ticketed event held at an outdoor public place with no fixed entry points.

Trade events attended by members of the public for leisure purposes, for example wedding fairs and craft fairs will not be excepted. The people working at the event will be excepted (such as exhibitors and venue staff).

The following people are exempt:

  • Under-18s.
  • People who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.
  • People taking part (or who have taken part) in vaccine trials.
  • The person responsible for the premises.
  • Workers and volunteers at the venue or event.
  • Emergency services responders and regulators carrying out their work.

The regulations will require the persons responsible for a late night premises or premises where a relevant event takes place to ensure there is a reasonable system in operation for checking that people seeking to enter the premises are fully vaccinated or are exempt, and to have in place a compliance plan for this system. As outlined below enforcement of the regulations commences on 18 October and failure to comply with this will be criminal offence.

In Wales

[Updated 30 November]

Click here for the latest coronavirus guidelines in Wales.

Alert Level 0: Guidance for Employers, Businesses and Organisations

The Welsh Government has updated guidance, which sets out information on what businesses, employers, organisations, activity and events organisers in Wales must do at alert level 0.

At Alert Level Zero, from 7 August 2021, there are no legal limits on the number of people who can meet, including in private homes, public places or at events. In addition, all businesses and premises may be open.

However, the Welsh Government has kept a small but significant number of legal requirements to help reduce the spread of the virus and help protect the most vulnerable. Businesses, employers and other organisations have a duty to protect their employees and customers while on their premises. Five legal requirements remain at Alert Level Zero:

  1. Businesses, employers and other organisations, including activity and event organisers, must undertake a bespoke coronavirus risk assessment of their premises and activities and take reasonable measures to minimise exposure to, and the spread of, coronavirus based on that bespoke risk assessment.
  2. Everyone must still self-isolate for 10 days if they test positive for COVID-19.
  3. Every adult (18 or over) who is notified by a contact tracer that they have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate for 10 days, unless they have been fully vaccinated in the UK (you are considered to be fully vaccinated, if it has been at least two weeks (14 days) since you completed a full course of an approved vaccine against Coronavirus more than 14 days before they had the close contact.
  4. From the 29 October, the Welsh Government is also strongly advising if someone in your household has symptoms or has tested positive and you are fully vaccinated or aged 5 to 17 you should self-isolate and take a PCR test. If your test is negative, you can stop isolating. Children under 5 are no longer advised to take a test unless recommended by a doctor or if parents believe a test is absolutely necessary and in the best interest of the child.
  5. Adults and children over 12 must wear face-coverings in indoor public places, with the exception of hospitality settings such as restaurants, pubs, cafes or nightclubs, or for solemnisation of a marriage, formation of a civil partnership or an alternative wedding ceremonies.

This guidance is intended to provide the essential information needed to help businesses, employers and other organisations or institutions meet the legal obligations they are under to minimise the risk of people being exposed to, or spreading, Coronavirus on their premises.

The guidance sets out what it known about how Coronavirus is transmitted and the most effective ways of reducing the spread of the disease. This helps explain why a range of different precautions are necessary to lower risks.

The guidance can be found here.

Read about the rules on GOV.WALES.

In Northern Ireland

[Updated 4 November]

In Ireland

[Updated 8 December]

Risk Assessment during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

(Updated 31 October)

As an employer, you must protect people from harm. This includes doing a risk assessment to decide what reasonable steps you need to take to protect your workers and others from Coronavirus (COVID-19).

This HSE guidance is up to date following the lifting of most restrictions in England. It is under regular review.

It points out that a generic risk assessment is unlikely to be specific or detailed enough to address measures needed to protect against COVID-19. For example, it might not identify adequate ventilation requirements or sufficient cleaning controls for particular areas and circumstances.

Steps needed to manage the risk

As part of your risk assessment, employers must:

  • Identify what work activity or situations might cause transmission of Coronavirus.
  • Think about who could be at risk – this could include workers, visitors, contractors and delivery drivers.
  • Decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed.
  • Identify the controls needed to reduce the risk.

If you have fewer than five employees you don’t have to write anything down, but it might help if you do. Find out more about managing risk and risk assessment.

You should ensure you consider the risk to groups of workers who are particularly vulnerable to Coronavirus.

When undertaking the risk assessment, you must talk with your workers about the measures you’re considering. They can provide valuable information on how you could reduce risks.

You should put monitoring and supervision in place to make sure the controls you have are working as expected.

Controlling the risks

Consider:

  • adequate ventilation
  • sufficient cleaning
  • good hand hygiene.

It is important to ensure that any controls identified do not increase other risks.

None of these control measures can help manage the transmission of COVID-19 on their own, says the HSE. A risk assessment should identify a package of measures.

Other measures to help reduce workplace transmission

There are other measures that can be considered to help reduce the risk of transmission during the pandemic to limit the number of people workers come into contact with, for example staggering the times people come into work or go home.

The guidance can be found here. 

Long COVID – Advice for employers and employees

For some people, coronavirus  can cause symptoms that last weeks or months after the infection. This can be called ‘post-COVID-19 syndrome’, ‘long-tail COVID’ or ‘long COVID’.

Long COVID symptoms could affect someone’s ability to work or cause them to take sickness absence.

ACAS has issued guidance about the issue, which points out that the usual rules for sickness absence and sick pay apply when someone is off work because of long COVID.

Read the latest NHS advice on long-COVID, here.

Employers

It advises that employers should be aware that the effects of long COVID can come and go. On some days the person might seem well, but on others their symptoms can be worse and they might need to be off work again.

If someone is off sick, they might feel isolated or need support to return to work. Employers should:

  • Agree how and when to make contact during any absence.
  • Make sure their work is covered and shared out appropriately while they’re off.
  • Talk about ways to support them as they return to work where and when possible.

It may be necessary for an employer to make a reasonable adjustment to the workplace or to how an employee works, such as different working hours, in order to facilitate a return to work. The guidance includes an example of what a reasonable adjustment could look like.

The document also includes advice on how to address a situation where an employee is struggling to do their job. For example, a further occupational health assessment to find out if more support may be needed.

Workers and managers

Long COVID guidance has also been set out for workers and managers, by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA).

The guidance sets out the following key steps when supporting a returning worker:

  • Step 1: stay in touch while the worker is absent from work.
  • Step 2: prepare for the worker’s return.
  • Step 3: have a return-to-work conversation.
  • Step 4: provide support during the early days after return to work.
  • Step 5: provide ongoing support and review regularly.

CIPD Managing Health and Safety Considerations

This guide has been written by IOSH and outlines what you need to know to sustain safe and healthy workplaces as we continue to manage the effects of COVID-19.

Businesses should always put employees’ health and safety at the centre of their return-to-workplace processes. Where staff are required to be on site, IOSH have set out the following four key areas employers should address:

  • safe people
  • safe workplaces
  • safe equipment
  • safe systems.

If an employer fails to take reasonable care in any of these areas, an employee may be able to make a number of claims, including resigning and claiming constructive unfair dismissal and personal injury. If an employer breaches a duty (such as the requirement to provide insurance) it is a criminal offence.

Employers are also expected to comply with health and safety legal requirements. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974), all employers with over five employees must have a written health and safety policy. In cases of non-compliance, enforcement officers can issue improvement or prohibition notices, which can lead to criminal penalties including large fines and imprisonment. Employers with less than five employees may still find it useful to document their health and safety procedure.

This guide outlines health and safety considerations and measures for employers as they continue to manage the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also suggests how HR, occupational safety and health (OSH) and other functions can work together to achieve this.

The guide can be found here.

COVID-19 vaccination programme

COVID-19 Vaccination: Guide for Employers

Public Health England has published by information for employers about the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

It stresses the importance of supporting the vaccination of employees against COVID-19, adding that employers are in a unique position to support the COVID-19 vaccination programme by encouraging staff to get both their first jab and then, when they are eligible, their second jab, to ensure they have maximum protection.

Benefits of COVID-19 vaccination include the following:

  • Employees can better protect themselves and those around them.
  • Lower risk of employees catching and spreading COVID-19 to colleagues, therefore reducing the negative impact on the workforce.
  • Protecting customers.
  • Bringing staff back safely into the workplace sooner.

In terms of supporting the vaccination of their workforce, employers urged to encourage their employees to get vaccinated. Organisations can play a vital role in helping to promote vaccination as part of their responsibility to help reduce workplace risk. Promoting vaccination within the workforce can include:

  • Sharing information on the facts around vaccination.
  • Showing support for vaccination from senior leadership.
  • Engaging expert and community leaders.
  • Being open with employees about what support a business will provide to facilitate workforce vaccination.
  • Sharing experience.

CIPD Vaccination Guide for Employers

Given that, for public health reasons and to protect themselves and others from disease, it’s desirable to have as many people vaccinated against COVID-19 as possible, the CIPD advise that employers should encourage staff to be vaccinated and publicise the benefits to improve take up of the vaccine and boosters when individuals are offered these through the NHS.

In addition to vaccination, the CIPD stress that employers should undertake coronavirus specific risk management assessments and consider measures such as continued home working and workplace measures such as ventilation, handwashing, social distancing and the use of PPE even though most legal restrictions have come to an end. Employers should stay up to date with the latest plans and advice on the UK government website, covering all UK countries, and adjust their plans accordingly.

As COVID-19 vaccination and boosters extend throughout the UK, employers must incorporate plans on the implications for their staff, visitors and workplace as a whole, covering. Employers will also need to consider their contractual terms, disciplinary, grievance and dismissal policies.

This guidance sets out the key points for employers to consider, which are:

  • encouraging vaccination
  • adopting a vaccination policy
  • risk assessments
  • planning for different groups of employees
  • making vaccination mandatory
  • other factors, such as testing, establishing if employees have had the vaccination, recruitment, data protection, etc.

 

JCVI Interim Advice on a Potential Coronavirus (COVID-19) Booster Vaccine Programme for Winter 2021 to 2022

In the situation where social mixing and social contact return towards pre-pandemic norms, it is expected that winter 2021 to 2022 will be the first winter in the UK when SARS-CoV2 will co-circulate alongside other respiratory viruses, including seasonal influenza virus. Seasonal influenza and SARS-CoV-2 viruses have the potential to add substantially to the ‘winter pressures’ usually faced by the NHS, particularly if infection waves from both viruses coincide. The timing and magnitude of potential influenza and SARS-CoV2 infection waves for winter 2021 to 2022 are currently unknown.

In the view of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the primary objective of a 2021 COVID-19 booster programme is to reduce the occurrence of serious COVID-19 disease.

It is stressed that the precautionary advice within this document is interim and may be subject to substantial change before being finalised.

A potential booster programme should begin in September 2021, it says, in order to maximise protection in those who are most vulnerable to serious COVID-19 ahead of the winter months.

Any potential COVID-19 booster programme should be offered in 2 stages:

Stage 1. The following persons should be offered a third dose COVID-19 booster vaccine and the annual influenza vaccine as soon as possible from September 2021:

  • Adults aged 16 years and over who are immunosuppressed.
  • Those living in residential care homes for older adults.
  • All adults aged 70 years or over.
  • Adults aged 16 years and over who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable.
  • Frontline health and social care workers.

Stage 2. The following persons should be offered a third dose COVID-19 booster vaccine as soon as practicable after stage 1, with equal emphasis on deployment of the influenza vaccine where eligible:

  • All adults aged 50 years and over.
  • Adults aged 16 to 49 years who are in an influenza or COVID-19 at-risk group.
  • Adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals.

UK COVID-19 Vaccines Delivery Plan

The UK has published full details about its vaccination plans, setting out hopes to have immunised tens of millions of people by the spring. The document highlights the plans to have 2,700 vaccine sites across the UK.

By 15 February, the aim is to have offered a first vaccine dose to everyone in the top four priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI):

  • All residents in a care home for older adults and their carers.
  • All those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers.
  • All those 75 years of age and over.
  • All those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.

This plan describes how the government have been able to build up a supply of vaccines and how it is planning to deploy them. The plan has four key parts:

  1. supply
  2. prioritisation
  3. places

 Sites

There are three types of vaccination site:

  • Vaccination centres, using large-scale venues, such as football stadiums and accessed by a national booking service.
  • Hospital hubs, using NHS Trusts across the country.
  • Local vaccination services, made up of sites led by general practice teams working together in already established primary care networks and pharmacy teams through community pharmacies.

Currently, 96% of the population in England is within 10 miles of a vaccine service. By the end of January, everyone will live within 10 miles of a vaccination centre. In a small number of highly rural areas, the vaccination centre will be a mobile unit, says the plan.

People

Thousands of people have joined the vaccination effort, says the document, with an 80,000 strong workforce recruited and ready to be deployed across the country. As well as current NHS staff, this includes drawing on the skills of those who have volunteered through the NHS Bring Back Scheme, those currently working outside of the NHS such as St John’s Ambulance and independent nurses and occupational health service providers.

As well as trained vaccinators, the COVID-19 vaccination programme will include a range of non-clinical support staff to ensure quick and easy access to a vaccine. For example, administration support, logistics, stewards and first aiders, as well as those who can log, record and manage stocks.

From 11 January, daily data for England will be published showing the total number vaccinated to date, including first and second doses. On 14 January and then on a weekly basis, NHSEI will publish a more detailed breakdown of vaccinations in England, including by region.

COVID-19 Vaccination: Why You Are Being Asked to Wait 

This leaflet is to help healthcare professionals answer questions on the eligibility and availability of the COVID-19 vaccine.

In February, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng called on businesses to continue supporting the national vaccine rollout effort as companies pledged their own initiatives.

Companies including IKEA, Timpson and the John Lewis Partnership are already stepping up, including offering paid time off for employees to receive their jab and volunteer, as well as offering workspace for vaccination centres

He paid tribute to leading business in the UK such as Marks and Spencer, Heineken and Boots who have made offers to repurpose vital workspaces, including warehouses, pubs and shops, to be used as vaccination hubs to support NHS staff in delivering the biggest vaccination programme in British history.

Business leaders are also allowing thousands of UK workers to take paid time off work to receive their jab, while also encouraging their staff, supporting crucial tasks such as checking patients in and guiding people at vaccinations sites across the UK.

Kwasi Kwarteng said: “It has been awe inspiring to see businesses lending their hand over the past few months to our heroic healthcare workers and clinicians – all playing their part to support the biggest vaccination programme in our nation’s history.

“Businesses and their workers have shown an indomitable spirit and leadership that will help us to defeat this virus, and I urge all businesses, no matter how big or small, to join us and do what they can as we reach the next stage of the rollout.

“I want to thank British businesses for their ingenuity and collaboration which will help guide us towards the light at the end of the tunnel, which is getting brighter by the day.”

COVID-19 Vaccination: What to Expect After Vaccination

This leaflet, which has been updated, addresses the following:

  • Side effects.
  • Can you catch COVID-19 from the vaccine?
  • Can you go back to normal activities after having your vaccine?
  • What to do next.
  • What to do if you are not well for your next appointment.
  • Will the vaccine protect you?
  • Can you give COVID-19 to anyone if you have had the vaccine?
  • How COVID-19 is spread.

COVID-19 Vaccination: a Guide for Social Care Staff

Frontline workers working in social care are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 at work, says this guidance from Public Health England. Health care workers and those working in social care (particularly in care homes) are at much higher risk of repeated exposure to the infection.

Catching COVID-19 can be serious and may lead to long term complications. These are more common in older staff or those with underlying clinical risk factors. You can have COVID-19 without any symptoms and pass it on to family, friends and residents, many of whom may be at increased risk from coronavirus. Being healthy doesn’t reduce your risk of catching COVID-19 or passing it on.

Information about vaccination during pregnancy, and scheduling for second dose, has been updated.

COVID-19 Vaccination: Guide for Healthcare Workers

This leaflet is for healthcare workers and includes information on the COVID-19 vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccination will reduce the chance of you suffering from COVID-19 disease. Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective and it takes a few weeks for your body to build up protection from the vaccine. Some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but this should lessen the severity of any infection.

The vaccine has been shown to be effective and no safety concerns were seen in studies of more than 20,000 people.

Information about vaccination for pregnant women or women who may be pregnant, and scheduling for second dose, has been updated. The document is available here.

COVID-19 Vaccination: Guide for Older Adults

This guidance has been updated to reflect that there are now 2 types of COVID-19 vaccine to be used. It states that they both require 2 doses to provide the best protection.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), an independent expert group, has recommended that the NHS offers these vaccines first to those at highest risk of catching the infection and of suffering serious complications if they catch the infection.

This includes older adults, frontline health and social care workers, care home residents and staff, and those with certain clinical conditions. When more vaccine becomes available, the vaccines will be offered to other people at risk as soon as possible.

The guidance points out that the COVID-19 vaccination will reduce the chance of you suffering from COVID-19 disease. It may take a week or two for your body to build up some protection from the first dose of vaccine.

COVID-19 Vaccination: Women of childbearing age, currently pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding

All women of childbearing age must read this guide before they go for vaccination.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines available in the UK have been shown to be effective and to have a good safety profile. These vaccines do not contain live coronavirus and cannot infect a pregnant woman or her unborn baby in the womb.

It contains:

  • Is COVID-19 disease serious in pregnancy?
  • Risk factors for pregnant women
  • Breastfeeding
  • Side effects

Safety of COVID-19 Vaccines When Given in Pregnancy

This advice provides information on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines when given in pregnancy. It is designed for health professionals to share with women who were vaccinated before they knew they were pregnant.

There is no known risk with giving inactivated virus or bacterial vaccines or toxoids during pregnancy or whilst breast-feeding. However, the COVID-19 vaccines have not yet been tested in pregnancy, so it has been advised that until more information is available, pregnant women should not routinely have these vaccines.

As a matter of caution, COVID-19 vaccine is therefore not routinely advised in pregnancy but there are some circumstances in which the potential benefits of vaccination are particularly important for pregnant women. This may include women who are at very high risk of catching the infection or those with certain medical conditions that put them at high risk of suffering serious complications from COVID-19 infection.

Some COVID-19 vaccines contain a different harmless virus to help deliver the vaccine – whilst this virus is live, it cannot reproduce and so will not cause infection in a pregnant woman or her baby.

Evidence so far reviewed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the UK regulatory agency responsible for licencing medicines including vaccines, has raised no concerns for safety in pregnancy.

Staying mentally well

The Staying mentally well: winter plan 2020 to 2021 sets out the support that will be in place in the immediate term to help support individuals to stay well during the second wave of the coronavirus and winter months ahead.

While this plan applies to England only (as mental health is a devolved matter), it notes that mental health remains a UK-wide priority and all 4 nations are taking steps to address the mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are continuing to collaborate across the UK, share learning and ensure all nations can benefit from new initiatives where possible.

The plan points out that as little as 30 minutes’ exposure to natural light per day can improve mental health and help maintain a healthy sleep pattern. As such, the government therefore recommend going outside at least once a day, preferably to a natural environment or green space such as a park, during daylight hours to maximise these benefits. Public Health England’s ‘Better Health’ campaign offers tips to move more and get active outside.

Wellbeing and work

Employers play a crucial role in ensuring employees are supported to take positive actions to improve wellbeing at work, says the plan. The ‘talking toolkit’ developed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is a useful resource to help employers both to have effective conversations with employees on how to prevent work-related stress and then use these discussions to inform tangible actions in the workplace (for example, complete a stress risk assessment).

As we move into winter, guidance and best practice will be available to employers via the Mental Health at Work website.

Staying Mentally Well: Winter Plan 2020 to 2021 available in full here.

Four-step roadmap to ease restrictions across England

In February, the Government Government published a four-step roadmap to ease restrictions across England and provided a route back to a more normal way of life.

Addressing the nation in a Downing Street Press Conference on Tuesday 23 February, PM Boris Johnson said that each step will be assessed against four tests before restrictions ease. The PM emphasised that decision on each stage will be based on ‘data not dates’, and that the Government will move cautiously to keep infection rates under control.

This assessment will be based on four tests:

  • The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
  • Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
  • Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
  • The assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.

Mr Johnson also discussed the latest vaccine efficacy data, with Public Health England finding that one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine reduces hospitalisations and deaths by at least 75%. Analysis of the AstraZeneca vaccine efficacy continues, with promising early results.

The subsequent steps are set out as follows:

Step 2, no earlier than 12 April

Non-essential retail, personal care premises, such as hairdressers and nail salons, and public buildings, such as libraries and community centres, will reopen;

  • Most outdoor attractions and settings, including zoos, and theme parks, will also reopen although wider social contact rules will apply in these settings to prevent indoor mixing between different households. Drive-in cinemas and drive-in performances will also be permitted;
  • Indoor leisure facilities, such as gyms and swimming pools, will also reopen – but only for use by people on their own or with their household;
  • Hospitality venues can serve people outdoors only. There will be no need for customers to order a substantial meal with alcohol, and no curfew – although customers must order, eat and drink while seated;
  • Self-contained accommodation, such as holiday lets, where indoor facilities are not shared with other households, can also reopen;
  • Funerals can continue with up to 30 people, and the numbers able to attend weddings, receptions and commemorative events such as wakes will rise to 15 (from six).

Free rapid tests for all businesses

The Government has announced that, businesses of all sizes, including those with fewer than 50 employees, can now register to order free lateral flow tests for their employees. It points out that regular testing could be the difference between a workplace being able to stay open and operational, or needing to close due to a COVID-19 outbreak. It will form a crucial part of the government’s plan to gradually and safely ease restrictions. Find out more here…

Step 3, no earlier than 17 May

  • Outdoors, most social contact rules will be lifted – although gatherings of over 30 people will remain illegal;
  • Outdoor performances such as outdoor cinemas, outdoor theatres and outdoor cinemas can reopen.. Indoors, the rule of 6 or 2 households will apply – although we will keep under review whether it is safe to increase this;
  • Indoor hospitality, entertainment venues such as cinemas and soft play areas, the rest of the accommodation sector, and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes will also reopen;
  • Larger performances and sporting events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full (whichever is lower) will also be allowed, as will those in outdoor venues with a capacity of 4,000 people or half-full (whichever is lower);
  • In the largest outdoor seated venues where crowds can spread out, up to 10,000 people will be able to attend (or a quarter-full, whichever is lower);
  • Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions and wakes, as well as funerals. Other life events that will be permitted include bar mitzvahs and christenings.

Step 4, no earlier than 21 June

  • It is hoped all legal limits on social contact can be removed;
  • Hope to reopen nightclubs, and lift restrictions on large events and performances that apply in Step 3;
  • This will also guide decisions on whether all limits can be removed on weddings and other life event

‘Hands. Face. Space’ and ventilation

New film shows importance of ventilation to reduce spread of COVID-19.

A new public information campaign has been launched by the government to highlight how letting fresh air into indoor spaces can reduce the risk of infection from coronavirus by over 70%. The campaign, which forms part of wider ‘Hands. Face. Space’ guidance, sees the release of a new short film created with scientists and an engineer at Leeds University.

The film illustrates how coronavirus lingers in the air in spaces with no fresh air, increasing the risk of people breathing in infected particles, and how the risk can be reduced significantly by regularly ventilating enclosed areas.

Research shows that being in a room with fresh air can reduce your risk of infection from particles by over 70%, as fresh air dilutes the particles.

As people start to spend more time indoors, experts are recommending that people either:

  • Open windows for short, sharp bursts of 10 to 15 minutes regularly throughout the day;
  • Leave windows open a small amount continuously.

This is to remove any infected particles lingering in the room.

Additionally, it is advised that any household systems that use outdoor air, including kitchen or bathroom extractor fans, are used correctly and regularly as an additional method to remove infected particles.

Airing indoor spaces is particularly important when:

  • People have visitors (when permitted) or tradespeople in their home, for example for construction or emergencies;
  • Someone from a support bubble is meeting with another household indoors;
  • A care worker is seeing a patient indoors;
  • Someone in the household has the virus, as this can help prevent transmission to other household members.

WHO releases technical specifications of PPE for COVID-19

This document provides interim guidance on the quality, performance characteristics and related standards of personal protective equipment to be used in the context of COVID-19.

Guidance for the Public on Mental Health and Wellbeing

Published by Public Health England, this advice and information covers how to look after your mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Topics covered include:

  • what can help your mental health and wellbeing
  • challenges you may be facing
  • advice for groups with additional mental health needs or facing specific issues
  • people with a learning disability
  • people with autism
  • older people
  • people with dementia.

The government’s ‘Staying mentally well this winter‘ plan sets out the support that will be in place in the immediate term to help mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on people’s mental health and wellbeing this winter.

CIPD Mental health support for employees

This CIPD guide outlines considerations and provides advice for employers, people professionals and people managers on how employee mental health can be supported as lockdown and social distancing measures continue, as employees continue to work from home longer term and we begin to face the consequences of the economic downturn (such as large scale redundancies).

It is not yet known what the mental health impacts of COVID-19 will be. There are many factors to consider including the impact of the lockdown and ongoing restrictions such as social distancing and self-isolation. Some employees will be fearful about contracting the virus, others will be anxious about family and friends. Many will have suffered bereavements during this time, often withot the chance to say goodbye or attend funerals. There will also be fears about job security, returning to the workplace (including using public transport for commuting) and financial concerns.

Some employees are working longer or more irregular hours and many are combining work with home-schooling and other family responsibilities, leading to a poor work-life balance. There are also potential mental health implications of furlough leave or the job support scheme.

Early research into the health impacts of lockdown including findings of fatigue, musculoskeletal conditions, poor work life balance, reduced exercise and increased alcohol consumption. In relation to mental health specifically, employees were reporting reduced motivation, loss of purpose and motivation, anxiety and isolation.

Employers will need to adapt a range of measures to support employees experiencing poor mental health as a result of COVID-19 and its effects on society and the economy. The guidance suggests that measures will need to range from supporting employees to regain an effective work-life balance and addressing fears about return to work, right through to support for severe mental health conditions. Employers, particularly those who have employees working in front line response roles, should act now to put necessary support in place.

Protecting vulnerable workers during the coronavirus pandemic

The HSE has released guidance which points out that employers have a legal duty to protect workers from harm and must consider the risk to workers who are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus and put controls in place to reduce that risk.

The guidance addresses:

  • Supporting workers in higher-risk groups;
  • Accessing COVID-secure precautions;
  • Clinically extremely vulnerable workers;
  • Supporting clinically extremely vulnerable workers returning to work;
  • Pregnant workers.

The higher-risk groups include those who:

  • Are older males;
  • Have a high body mass index (BMI);
  • Have health conditions such as diabetes;
  • Are from some Black, Asian or minority ethnicity (BAME) backgrounds.

While there are currently no expectations of additional controls specifically for these groups, employers must ensure that existing controls (social distancing, good hygiene and cleaning, ventilation, supervision etc) are applied strictly. Employers are advised to:

  • Emphasise the importance of individual and wider workforce engagement, buy-in and cooperation to ensure controls are applied stringently;
  • Have individual discussions with their managers around their particular concerns;
  • Discuss the risk management measures put in place to minimise transmission to keep them, and others, safe;
  • Explain the controls that will be put/are already in place to protect them and other workers.

The ‘Protecting vulnerable workers during the coronavirus pandemic’ guidance is available in full here.

 Free download: Vulnerable workers – A Barbour guide.

Working from home

To help contain the virus, office workers who can work effectively from home should do so over the winter. Where an employer, in consultation with their employee, judges an employee can carry out their normal duties from home they should do so. Public sector employees working in essential services, including education settings, should continue to go into work where necessary. Anyone else who cannot work from home should go to their place of work. The risk of transmission can be substantially reduced if COVID-19 secure guidelines are followed closely. Extra consideration should be given to those people at higher risk.

Read SHP’s guide to home working here.

COVID-19 Travel advice

[Updated 30 November]

Travel to England from another country during coronavirus (COVID-19)

On 17 September, Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has announced a simplified system for international travel in light of the success of the UK’s domestic vaccine rollout, providing greater stability for industry and passengers.

The traffic light system is replaced by a single red list of countries and territories which will continue to be crucial in order to protect public health, and simplified travel measures for arrivals from the rest of the world from Monday 4 October at 4am.

Testing requirements will also be reduced for eligible fully vaccinated travellers, who will no longer need to take a PDT when travelling to England from Monday 4 October, 4am.

From the end of October, eligible fully vaccinated passengers and those with an approved vaccine from a select group of non-red countries will be able to replace their day two test with a cheaper lateral flow test, reducing the cost of tests on arrival into England. The government wants to introduce this by the end of October, aiming to have it in place for when people return from half-term breaks.

Anyone testing positive will need to isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test, at no additional cost to the traveller, which would be genomically sequenced to help identify new variants.

Testng for unvaccinated passengers from non-red countries will include pre-departure tests, day two and day 8 PCR tests. Test to release remains an option to reduce self-isolation period.

From 4 October, England will welcome fully vaccinated travellers from a host of new countries – who will be treated like returning fully vaccinated UK travellers – including 17 countries and territories such as Japan and Singapore, following the success of an existing pilot with the US and Europe.

Grant Shapps Transport Secretary said: “[These] changes mean a simpler, more straightforward system. One with less testing and lower costs, allowing more people to travel, see loved ones or conduct business around the world while providing a boost for the travel industry.

“Public health has always been at the heart of our international travel policy and with more than 8 in 10 adults vaccinated in the UK, we are now able to introduce a proportionate updated structure that reflects the new landscape.”

A further review for the UK’s international travel policy is planned for early in the new year to provide further certainty for the spring and summer 2022 seasons.

Conducting the final regular traffic light review before the switch to the new two-tiered system, several additional countries and territories will move off the red list – Turkey, Pakistan, the Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya. Changes came into effect at 4am Wednesday 22 September.

Passengers who aren’t recognised as being fully vaccinated with authorised vaccines and certificates under England’s international travel rules, will still have to take a pre-departure test, a day two and day 8 PCR test and self-isolate for 10 days upon their return from a non-red list country under the new two-tiered travel programme. Test to Release will remain an option for unvaccinated passengers who wish to shorten their isolation period.

From late October, the government will also be making changes to allow passengers who change flights or international trains during their journey to follow the measures associated to their country of departure, rather than any countries they have transited through as part of their journey.

All passengers will still need to fill in a passenger locator form ahead of travel. Passengers should continue to check GOV.UK travel guidance including FCDO travel advice before, during and after travel to keep up to date in entry requirements and ensure compliance with the latest COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 regulations for the country being visited.

Supporting staff when self-isolating

This Acas guidance explains that, if an employee or worker needs to self-isolate, the employer should:

  • Send them home immediately, if they’re at work.
  • Support them while they’re at home, including their wellbeing and mental health.
  • Consider making changes to the workplace to stop further spread.

If an employee or worker is not able to work because they’re ill with COVID-19 or cannot work from home while self-isolating, they must get any sick pay they’re entitled to.

Someone might have to self-isolate more than once during the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers should support them in the same way each time.

Face coverings: When to wear one and how to make your own

corona face maskPublished by the Cabinet Office, this guidance explains when to wear a face covering and how to make one.

It covers:

  • What face coverings are;
  • Their role in reducing the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19);
  • The settings in which they are recommended;
  • How they should be safely used and stored.

The BBC has put together a user’s guide to wearing a face mask to the shops.

Face coverings at work

Face covering guidance for workplaces

The guidance says that there is no universal face coverings guidance for workplaces because of the variety of work environments in different industries.

Employers must make sure that the risk assessment for their business addresses the risks of COVID-19 using BEIS guidance to inform decisions and control measures including close proximity working.

As a general rule, it is important to note that coronavirus (COVID-19) is a different type of risk to the risks normally faced in a workplace and needs to be managed through a hierarchy or system of control including social distancing, high standards of hand hygiene, increased surface cleaning, fixed teams or partnering, and other measures such as using screens or barriers to separate people from each other.

These measures remain the best ways of managing risk in the workplace, but there are some circumstances when wearing a face covering may be marginally beneficial and a precautionary measure; this will largely be to protect others and not the wearer. If employees choose to wear a face covering, normal policies relating to occupational workwear and PPE will continue to apply.

The BBC has put together a user’s guide to wearing a face mask.

As the pandemic continues, the World Health Organization (WHO) has updated its recommendations for the use of masks in areas where the virus is spreading.

In updates issued in November 2020, the UN body advises “that the general public should wear a non-medical mask in indoor (eg shops, shared workplaces, schools) or outdoor settings where physical distancing of at least one metre cannot be maintained.”

The advice adds: “If indoors, unless ventilation has been assessed to be adequate, WHO advises that the general public should wear a non-medical mask, regardless of whether physical distancing of at least one metre can be maintained.”

Use of face coverings in construction during coronavirus

The Construction Leadership Council has updated its guidance on wearing face coverings on site. (29 September)

It now recommends that masks are worn where workers on site are not required to wear Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) and their workplace (which may include welfare and changing facilities, office or meetings rooms) meets all of the following criteria:

  • An enclosed space;
  • Where social distancing isn’t always possible;
  • Where they come into contact with others they do not normally meet.

Face coverings must also be worn in site canteens except when seated at a table to eat or drink.

Find the updated CLC document here.

To get some recommendations on face coverings in the workplace, for employers and employees, SHP spoke to Arco’s Director of QSHE UK and Asia, Neil Hewitt.

Exemption cards or badges

Guidance has been updated with information about face mask exemptions. Some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering. This could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign.

Also available are printable exemption cards:

Medical and fabric masks: Who wears what when?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a video outlining when medical masks and fabric masks should be worn in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Social distancing cards and badges

The Cabinet Office has issued optional badges that can be used to show that the carrier may have difficulties or concerns in maintaining social distancing. The idea is that they can be used to signal to others around them that they need to pay attention and be given space.

The following are available:

‘Please give me space’ social distancing badge (for mobile phone)

‘Please give me space’ social distancing badge (to print) 

‘Please give me space’ social distancing card (to print)

COVID-19: guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable

This guidance is for adults and children in England who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

It has been updated following the pausing of shielding advice in England. There is specific guidance on what will happen if there is a local lockdown in your area.

What has changed:

  • You do not need to follow previous shielding advice;
  • You can go to work as long as the workplace is Covid-secure, but should carry on working from home wherever possible;
  • Clinically extremely vulnerable children should attend education settings in line with the wider guidance on reopening of schools and guidance for full opening: special schools and other specialist settings;
  • You can go outside as much as you like but you should still try to keep your overall social interactions low;
  • You can visit businesses, such as supermarkets, pubs and shops, while keeping 2 metres away from others wherever possible or 1 metre, plus other precautions;
  • You should continue to wash your hands carefully and more frequently than usual and that you maintain thorough cleaning of frequently touched areas in your home and/or workspace
  • You will no longer receive free food parcels, medicine deliveries and basic care from the National Shielding Service.

What to include in your COVID-19 risk assessment

The HSE has issued a COVID-19 risk assessment template for organisations to use in order to protect workers and others from coronavirus.

It says that organisations must:

  • Identify what work activity or situations might cause transmission of the virus;
  • Think about who could be at risk;
  • Decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed;
  • Act to remove the activity or situation, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk.

Workers and their representatives must be consulted during the process, to explain the measures being taken to them. They can also provide valuable information on how the risks could be controlled.

The document can be used to help ensure everything has been covered in order to keep workers and others safe. Once the risk assessment is completed, you will also have to monitor to make sure that what you have put in place is working as expected.

The COVID-19 risk assessment template can be found here.

During the news conference at Downing Street, on Friday 17 July, the PM said: “We’re going to give employers more discretion and ask them to make decisions about how their staff can work safely. That could mean continuing to work from home, which is one way of working safely and which has worked for many employers and employees. Or it could mean making workplaces safe.”

What will coronavirus do to our offices and homes?

The BBC has put together an interactive guide on what the future might look like.

The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy: New chapter added

The Government’s strategy document describes the progress the UK has made to date in tackling the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and sets out the plans for moving to the next phase of its response to the virus.

A new chapter has been added: The Next Chapter in our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy.

This additional chapter to the recovery strategy sets out the next stages of the plan. It looks ahead to the coming months, covering the tools that will be used to suppress the virus, the challenges that winter will bring and how the government is preparing for these, and our ambition for continuing to reopen the economy and society when it is safe to do so.

In summary, areas covered in the document include:

Suppressing the virus

The ONS infection survey shows that the number of new infections and people with COVID-19 at any given time has decreased significantly since ‘Our plan to rebuild’ was published in May, and is now stable and low. The number of people dying each day from COVID-19 has fallen from a peak of 1,173 in mid-April to an average of 74 over the past seven days.

The government says it is now able to better to identify outbreaks at an early stage at local and regional levels, and have taken steps to ensure appropriate local intervention. Local outbreaks are identified and managed through continuous monitoring of the available data, using NHS Test and Trace and Public Health England, to help spot potential outbreaks early. They then work with local authorities to understand the situation in detail and take action. Different approaches are required according to local circumstances. In some places, outbreaks have occurred in individual premises, such as workplaces, so the response has only focused on those specific locations, whereas other outbreaks have required a greater level of intervention.

The CONTAIN Framework, published 17 July, sets out how local authorities and national Government will work together to manage local outbreaks. As of 18 July, local authorities have new powers to close specific premises, close public outdoor spaces, and cancel events.

Continuing the plan to rebuild

Good hygiene practices must be maintained, and this is essential says the guidance. Since 11 May the government has encouraged people to wear face coverings in enclosed spaces where they have close contact with people they do not normally meet. In England, face coverings have been mandatory on public transport since 15 June, and they will be mandatory in shops and supermarkets from 24 July.

There is now sufficient testing capacity so that everyone with symptoms – no matter what their age or profession – can quickly and easily access a test.

Over the coming months the plan is to continue building the NHS Test and Trace service into ‘a world-class operation in infection control.’ Government plans to increase antigen testing capacity to half a million tests a day by the end of October, with results for in-person tests coming back the next day.

To support these aims, a number of strategies are being pursued. For example, implementation of a targeted communications strategy to improve awareness of the service among priority audiences, including BAME communities, non-English speakers and at-risk groups; introducing backward contact tracing, to identify the source of a particular outbreak and improve understanding of how infection spreads around social, professional and educational networks.

Preparing for winter

There are unknown factors in how colder weather may impact the virus; there is some evidence that UV light means surfaces exposed to sunlight are less hospitable to the virus in the summer, and some outbreaks have occurred in cold, damp settings, such as meat-packing factories. As the weather becomes colder and days become shorter, it is expected that people will spend more time indoors, where the risk of transmission is higher.

There are also secondary risks. The pressure on the NHS and other health infrastructure is already higher in winter due to other seasonal illnesses, such as flu.

The Government is undertaking preparations to ensure readiness for the risk of a resurgence in the virus between November and March. For example; the auditing of critical winter stockpiles of equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure there is the stock needed. Work will continue with care homes to make sure they are prepared to keep residents and staff safe through the winter months.

NHS Test and Trace: How it Works

This document provides an overview of NHS Test and Trace, including what happens if somebody tests positive for coronavirus or has had close contact with someone who has tested positive.

It has been updated to reflect that the 14-day isolation period is now 10 days.

Information is given on:

  • How NHS Test and Trace helps fight the virus;
  • How NHS Test and Trace works;
  • The NHS COVID-19 app;
  • Part 1: people who develop symptoms of coronavirus;
  • Part 2: people who have had close contact with someone who has coronavirus;
  • Support for people who are self-isolating;
  • Customer logs and NHS QR codes.

NHS Test and Trace in the workplace

This guidance sets out what to do if an employer or somebody they employ is required to self-isolate. Information has been updated to reflect confirmatory PCR policy change:

The advice for people who have a positive lateral flow device (LFD) test result has changed. They are no longer required to have a follow-up polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, and they should stay at home and self-isolate immediately.

People who have a positive LFD test result should only have a follow-up PCR test if:

  • they wish to claim the Test and Trace Support Payment
  • they have a health condition that means they may be suitable for new coronavirus (COVID-19) treatments
  • they are taking LFD tests as part of research or surveillance programmes, and the programme asks them to do so
  • they have a positive day 2 LFD test after arriving in England.

Main messages

Businesses should:

  • support workers if they are required to self-isolate
  • support workers to follow the wider stay at home guidance to keep themselves and others safe
  • continue targeted asymptomatic testing in high-risk workplaces
  • display an NHS QR code poster and have a system for non-digital users, so that people can be notified if they may have been exposed to the virus
  • improve ventilation
  • advise those who have tested positive to identify close contacts, so they can follow the relevant public health guidance.

Download: Contact tracing and COVID-19 director’s briefing

COVID-19: Guidance updated to reflect COVID alert level information

The following government guidance documents have been updated to reflect guidance on new local COVID alert levels:

Guidance for the Safe Use of Council Buildings

This is guidance for those managing council buildings. It signposts to relevant guidance on a range of different activities that can take place in these buildings. It has been updated to reflect the announcement on 4 January of national lockdown for all England.

vThe document signposts to relevant guidance on a range of different activities that can take place in these spaces, in line with measures to tackle COVID-19.

The guidance applies to all users of council buildings including visitors and councillors.

Many council buildings are also workplaces and should therefore be aware of their responsibilities as employers, says the guidance. Where people are not able to work from home, (for instance people who work in critical national infrastructure, construction or manufacturing) they should continue to travel to work/attend their workplace, says the guidance.

A COVID-19 risk assessment should be completed by each operator of a council building, civic building, town hall or organiser of a civic event in order to determine what action needs to be taken. This is in addition to any risk assessment which is already in place.

Guidance for Managing Playgrounds and Outdoor Gyms 

This guidance is for owners and operators of playgrounds and outdoor gyms to enable their use while minimising the transmission risk of coronavirus (COVID-19).

On 12 October, a system of local COVID alert levels was announced by the government. The guidance highlights that for areas where the local COVID alert level is high or very high, the additional restrictions apply.

Guidance for Managing Beaches, the Countryside and Coastal Areas

This guidance is for the owners and operators of beach, countryside and coastal destinations during COVID-19.

In terms of the system of local COVID alert levels, the guidance sets out that if you live, work or volunteer in an area that is part of local COVID alert level – high or local COVID alert level – very high, additional restrictions apply.

Safer Public Places – Urban Centres and Green Spaces

This guidance focuses on the design principles for safer urban centres and green spaces. The Public Health (Coronavirus Regulations) (England) Regulations 2020 impose temporary statutory restrictions and are under constant review. The guidance contains information and examples of interventions that may be undertaken by the owners and operators of public spaces to keep people safe as and when the restrictions are relaxed, and urban spaces become busier.

It is primarily for owners and operators of public places including but not limited to:

  • Local councils and town/city centre managers;
  • Landowners;
  • Commercial landlords responsible for public places;
  • Management companies.

This document provides a framework for identifying the issues associated with the use of public places in light of the need for social distancing. It focuses primarily on areas which are likely to have high footfall. It also includes practical interventions, which are temporary, for adapting and managing public places.

On 12 October the Government introduced a system of Local COVID Alert Levels. For those living, working or volunteering in an area that is part of Local COVID Alert Level – High or Local COVID Alert Level – Very High, additional restrictions apply.

Government strategy and workplace guidance

The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy

An outline to the Government’s plan for rebuilding and recovering from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has now been published.

NHS Test and Trace service 

The NHS Test and Trace service forms a central part of the government’s coronavirus recovery strategy. Launching across England, the service aims to help identify, contain and control coronavirus, reduce the spread of the virus and save lives.

Anyone who tests positive for coronavirus will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and will need to share information about their recent interactions. This could include household members, people with whom they have been in direct contact, or within 2 metres, for more than 15 minutes.

People identified as having been in close contact with someone who has a positive test must stay at home for 10 days, even if they do not have symptoms, to stop unknowingly spreading the virus.

If those in isolation develop symptoms, they can book a test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119. If they test positive, they must continue to stay at home for 7 days or until their symptoms have passed. If they test negative, they must complete the 10-day isolation period.

Members of their household will not have to stay at home unless the person identified becomes symptomatic, at which point they must also self-isolate for 10 days to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus.

NHS Test and Trace brings together 4 tools to control the virus:

  1. Test: increasing availability and speed of testing will underpin NHS Test and Trace;
  2. Trace: when someone tests positive for coronavirus the NHS Test and Trace service will use dedicated contact tracing staff, online services and local public health experts to identify any close recent contacts they’ve had and alert those most at risk of having the virus who need to self-isolate. This will be complemented by the rollout of the NHS COVID-19 App in the coming weeks;
  3. Contain: a national Joint Biosecurity Centre will work with local authorities and public health teams in Public Health England (PHE), including local Directors of Public Health, to identify localised outbreaks and support effective local responses, including plans to quickly deploy testing facilities to particular locations. Local authorities have been supported by £300 million of new funding to help local authorities develop their own local outbreak control plans;
  4. Enable: government to learn more about the virus, including as the science develops, to explore how we could go further in easing infection control measures.

The Department for Work and Pensions has announced that those having to self-isolate will be eligible for statutory sick pay if they are unable to work from home. This applies across the four nations of the UK.

The government has also commented that work continues on the NHS COVID-19 app following a successful rollout on the Isle of Wight. It has added that there has been a positive reception to the test and trace system on the island with over 52,000 downloads in the first week. The app, which will form a part of the NHS Test and Trace service, is due to be launched in the coming weeks once contact tracing is up and running.

Guidance on NHS test and trace is available here.

NHS test and trace: workplace guidance

This document sets out guidance on the NHS test and trace service for employers, businesses and workers.

The government guidance has been updated to reflect the end of the national restrictions on 2 December 2020 and the reintroduction of the tiered system. Depending on the tier in which your business is located, you may or may not be allowed to remain open, and each tier has different requirements for different sectors.

Generally, this guidance sets out what to do if you or someone you employ is contacted by NHS Test and Trace, including information about self-isolation and financial support.

The role of employers

According to the guidance, the NHS test and trace service will help to manage the risk of the virus re-emerging as restrictions on everyday life are eased, as far as it is deemed safe to do so.

It stresses that it is vital employers play their part by:

  • Making their workplaces as safe as possible;
  • Encouraging workers to heed any notifications to self-isolate and supporting them when in isolation.

The document recognises that although this may seem disruptive for businesses, but suggests that it is less disruptive than an outbreak of COVID-19 in the workplace will be, and far less disruptive than periods in lockdown.

The NHS test and trace service is designed to support businesses and economic recovery by:

  • Providing testing for anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus, so that if they have been tested positive, they and their household member know to continue to self-isolate;
  • Helping to stop the onward spread of the virus in the workplace and wider society, so that fewer people develop coronavirus and have to self-isolate;
  • Enabling the government to go further in safely easing or lifting lockdown measures, as far as it is deemed safe to do so, thereby allowing the nation to return to normal as quickly as possible.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Testing guidance for employers

Some employers and third-party healthcare providers may want to introduce their own internal testing programmes outside of the NHS Test and Trace service. This guidance aims to help them ensure that their testing programmes are as reliable and effective as possible. It covers:

  • Legislation, regulations and best practice;
  • Virus and antibody testing;
  • How to interpret test results;
  • Next steps after a positive or negative test.

It is noted that the NHS Test and Trace service is for those who display symptoms of COVID-19 or who have been advised to take a test by a medical practitioner or public service. Employer and third-party healthcare providers wishing to provide a test to staff must not advise individuals without symptoms to get a test from the limited supply offered by the NHS Test and Trace service, but may offer alternative private provision, in accordance with this guidance.

Before deciding to establish a testing programme, employers are advised that they are clear on a number of factors, such as:

  • Who the testing will cover – for example, whether this is all directly employed staff, or includes individuals working onsite, like contractors;
  • What the focus of the programme is: staff with symptoms or without symptoms;
  • How often staff will be tested;
  • Appropriate facilities for carrying out the tests.

The section: Annex A: employer’s legal obligations has also been updated in line with updates to government guidance.

The guidance is available here.

NHS Test and Trace service in the workplace

The NHS Test and Trace service:

  • Provides testing for anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus to find out if they have the virus;
  • Gets in touch with anyone who has had a positive test result to help them share information about any close recent contacts they have had;
  • Alerts those contacts, where necessary, and notifies them they need to self-isolate to help stop the spread of the virus.

By following instructions to self-isolate, people who have had close recent contact with someone with coronavirus will be protecting their family, friends, colleagues and other people around them, and will play a direct role in stopping the spread of the virus.

This guidance, for employers, businesses and workers, has been updated to reflect the new legal requirements for designated venues to collect contact details and display official NHS QR code posters.

If you need to self-isolate or cannot attend work due to coronavirus

This guidance is for employers and workers on work absences due to Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Employees or workers may not be able to go into work because:

  • They’re self-isolating.
  • They’re clinically extremely vulnerable.

The guidance sets out the relevant legal framework around absence and the return to work.

People who may not be attending the workplace during the Coronavirus pandemic include:

  • Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Anyone who’s received a positive test for Coronavirus and needs to self-isolate.
  • household contacts (including an extended or linked household, or support bubble) of people who have symptoms of Coronavirus and are required to self-isolate.
  • Household contacts (including an extended or linked household, or support bubble) of people who have had a positive Coronavirus test and are required to self-isolate.
  • Other contacts of people with Coronavirus who have been advised to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, by their local authority, or because their employer has asked them to self-isolate due to someone in the workplace testing positive.
  • Anyone identified as clinically extremely vulnerable or at the highest risk of severe illness from Coronavirus and has previously received a notification advising them to shield.
  • People who must self-isolate having travelled to the UK – you may not have to self-isolate if you are travelling from somewhere on the travel corridor list or are doing a job that has a travel exemption.

It’s an offence for an employer to knowingly allow a person who is required to self-isolate to work anywhere other than where they are self-isolating (normally their home). This applies only when they’re required to self-isolate following a positive test, contacted by NHS Test and Trace or their local authority, or where they are required to quarantine after returning from abroad. Details of Fixed Penalty Notices are set out.

Anyone who develops COVID-19 symptoms should stay at home and self-isolate immediately. Anyone who is due to work outside of the place where they are isolating during the self-isolation period must inform their employer if they’ve:

  • Tested positive.
  • Been contacted by NHS Test and Trace or their local authority.
  • Returned from abroad and are required to quarantine.

An individual can receive a fixed penalty notice of £50 for not doing so.

The guidance goes on to cover:

  • statutory sick pay
  • paid and unpaid leave
  • dismissal
  • redundancy when someone’s clinically extremely vulnerable
  • equality act
  • returning safely to the workplace
  • employment rights.

“COVID-19 Secure” guidelines

Many measures require the development of new safety guidelines that set out how each type of physical space can be adapted to operate safely. The Government has been consulting relevant sectors, industry bodies, local authorities, trades unions, the Health and Safety Executive and Public Health England on their development.

To make workplaces less infectious, the guidelines promotes, for example:

  • Keeping a distance between people outside their household;
  • Keeping the hands and face as clean as possible. Hand sanitiser should be carried when travelling and applied where available outside the home, especially when entering a building and following contact with surfaces. Clothes should also be washed regularly, as there is some evidence that the virus can stay on fabrics;
  • Limiting the number of people that any given individual comes into contact with regularly. Employers can support this where practical by changing shift patterns and rotas to keep smaller, contained teams. Evidence also suggests the virus is less likely to be transmitted in well-ventilated areas.

COVID-19: The visitor economy

This guidance is designed to be relevant for people who work within the visitor economy; for example people who operate or run hotels and other types of accommodation (there is also a separate hotels and other guest accommodation guidance, indoor and outdoor visitor attractions guidance, and guidance for people who run or manage spaces for business or leisure events and conferences. There is also a separate guidance document on pubs and restaurants for food settings.

In deciding what actions to take, an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment must be undertaken, at a business and site level.

The guidance covers:

COVID-19: Hotels and other guest accommodation 

This government guidance is for people who work in or run hotels and other guest accommodation.

The following sections have been updated:

  • Managing risk (section 1.1): it is noted the local COVID alert level for an area will need to be checked, in order to see which level applies to the business and take into account any restrictions for Covid alert level: high or very high that may be applicable.
  • Keeping customers, visitors and contractors safe (section 2): advice is set out on local restrictions for accommodation providers.
  • Who should go to work (section 3).

It is noted that from 14 October, accommodation providers must take into account the government’s local COVID alert levels system that sets out information for businesses if an area local is placed under a Local Covid Alert Level. Further details of each alert level are given.

Cleaning of non-healthcare settings outside the home

Published by Public Health England, this guidance covers the cleaning of environments outside the home.

It has been updated to include information on virus transmission and mitigations.

Regular cleaning plays a vital role in limiting the transmission of COVID-19, says the guidance, noting that surfaces should be wiped down twice a day, and one of these should be at the beginning or the end of the working day. Cleaning should be more frequent depending on the number of people using the space, whether they are entering and exiting the setting and access to handwashing and hand-sanitising facilities.

5 steps to working safely

This government advice sets out practical actions for businesses to take based on five main steps.

The relevant guide for each workplace should also be read (see below) as these contain specific actions for businesses to take based on these steps. Further guidance will be published as more businesses are able to reopen, says the government.

  1. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment

Before restarting work you should ensure the safety of the workplace by:

  • carrying out a risk assessment in line with the HSE guidance
  • consulting with your workers or trade unions
  • sharing the results of the risk assessment with your workforce and on your website.
  1. Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures

You should increase the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning by:

  • encouraging people to follow the guidance on hand washing and hygiene
  • providing hand sanitiser around the workplace, in addition to washrooms
  • frequently cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces that are touched regularly
  • enhancing cleaning for busy areas
  • setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets
  • providing hand drying facilities – either paper towels or electrical dryers.
  1. Help people to work from home

You should take all reasonable steps to help people work from home by:

  • discussing home working arrangements
  • ensuring they have the right equipment, for example remote access to work systems
  • including them in all necessary communications
  • looking after their physical and mental wellbeing.
  1. Maintain 2m social distancing, where possible

Where possible, you should maintain 2m between people by:

  • putting up signs to remind workers and visitors of social distancing guidance
  • avoiding sharing workstations
  • using floor tape or paint to mark areas to help people keep to a 2m distance
  • arranging one-way traffic through the workplace if possible
  • switching to seeing visitors by appointment only if possible.
  1. Where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk

Where it’s not possible for people to be 2m apart, you should do everything practical to manage the transmission risk by:

  • considering whether an activity needs to continue for the business to operate
  • keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
  • using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
  • using back-to-back or side-to-side working whenever possible
  • staggering arrival and departure times
  • reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’.

COVID-19: how to work safely in care homes – updated

This advice is for those working in care homes on how to work safely during this period of sustained transmission of COVID-19.

The resource has been updated from the previous version of this document; changes include:

  • the title has changed from “How to work safely in care homes” to better reflect the content
  • changes to the section relating to care for people with learning disabilities and/or autism
  • further detail added to recommendations including specification of surgical mask types (defined in consultation with HSE and MHRA).

Scotland’s route map through and out of the crisis

Lockdown restrictions in Scotland began to relax from 28 May.

A four-phase “route map” was published, aimed at restarting society while suppressing the virus. The document sets out the steps to reopen Scottish society, although it does not set exact timescales. It states that reviews will take place every three weeks as a minimum, to ensure Scotland is on track and to assess whether elements within each phase can be accelerated or need to be decelerated.

The four phases

Phase 1: Virus not yet contained but cases are falling. From 28 May people should be able to meet another household outside in small numbers. Sunbathing is allowed, along with some outdoor activities like golf and fishing. Garden centres and drive-through takeaways can reopen, some outdoor work can resume, and childminding services can begin.

Phase 2: Virus controlled. People can meet larger groups outdoors, and meet another household indoors. Construction, factories, warehouses, laboratories and small shops can resume work. Playgrounds and sports courts can reopen, and professional sport can begin again.

Phase 3: Virus suppressed. Meetings of people from more than one household indoors. Non-essential offices would reopen, along with gyms, museums, libraries, cinemas, larger shops, pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and dentists. Live events could take place with restricted numbers and physical distancing restrictions. Schools should reopen from 11 August.

Phase 4: Virus no longer a significant threat. University and college campuses can reopen in full, mass gatherings are allowed. All workplaces open and public transport is back at full capacity.

A guide to COVID-19 in the warehouse

Read this complete guide to safe working in warehouses during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, in line with the UK Government’s advice, from SHD Logistics.

HSE to restart “proactive” inspections of construction sites

The move follows a government announcement of more cash for the organisation and prime minister Boris Johnson promising the body would carry out “spot inspections” to make sure businesses were safe places to work. However the head of the union representing HSE inspectors has warned the organisation remains too small, reports Construction News.

The safety watchdog stopped carrying out routine inspections after the lockdown announcement in March, despite sectors such as construction continuing to operate.

HSE to prosecute and lockdown eased in England

The HSE is prepared to use its enforcement powers when necessary and will also consider criminal prosecutions, its Chief Executive Sarah Albon said. She said she is aware of a small number of firms “not doing the right thing or not sure what the right thing is to do”.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Scottish workbook 2020

[Scotland]

Issued by the Scottish Government, the aim of this workbook is to bring into one place advice on how local and national public health agencies will provide support that helps to put in place the action needed to prevent coronavirus spread, together with advice on management of outbreaks.

It aims to aid management of the transmission of coronavirus by:

  • Clarifying roles and responsibilities for: service restart and recovery activity whilst preventing the spread of COVID-19
  • Setting out actions needed to facilitate the management of incidents and outbreak
  • Supporting the co-ordination and planning of actions being taken as outlined in the route map out of lockdown
  • Furthering shared learning during recovery.

Advice cards

The Workbook introduces the idea of Sector Advice Cards. These will be based on formal guidance documentation that has been issued by the Scottish Government, Public Health Scotland and other agencies. They will be designed to be used by those who have responsibility for an individual setting, as a single point of access to the key information on how to minimise the risk of an outbreak; what to do if someone reports symptoms of COVID-19 that may increase the chances of the virus being transmitted to others; and what would be expected of them if the local health protection team needs to act to manage a local incident or outbreak.

The COVID-19 Sector Advice card is designed for managers and employees to guide action to prevent the spread of COVID-19; to support workplace communications and training; and take action in the event of an outbreak.

The Scottish COVID-19 Workbook can be found here.


On-demand webinar: Health and safety law conundrums during the COVID-19 pandemic

Join leading lawyer, Simon Joyston-Bechal as he looks at:

  1.  Managing difficult decisions relating to COVID-19;
  2. Could we be prosecuted for COVID-19 exposures?;
  3. Can we keep operating if we are struggling with social distancing?
  4. Working from home – how far do our duties extend?
  5. Statutory inspections – what if we are running behind?
  6. Returning to work…

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Workplace Guidance: Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Guidance published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is for employers to help them get their businesses back up and running and workplaces operating safely.

The ‘COVID-19 secure’ guidelines aim to help make workplaces as safe as possible and give people confidence to go back to work during coronavirus pandemic. The documents have been developed in consultation with approximately 250 businesses, unions, industry leaders as well as devolved administrations.

The new guidance covers eight workplace settings which are allowed to be open, from outdoor environments and construction sites to factories and takeaways.

Practical steps for businesses are focused on five key points, which should be implemented as soon as it is practical:

  1. Work from home, if you can

All reasonable steps should be taken by employers to help people work from home. But for those who cannot work from home and whose workplace has not been told to close, our message is clear: you should go to work. Staff should speak to their employer about when their workplace will open.

  1. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, in consultation with workers or trade unions

This guidance operates within current health and safety employment and equalities legislation and employers will need to carry out COVID-19 risk assessments in consultation with their workers or trade unions, to establish what guidelines to put in place. If possible, employers should publish the results of their risk assessments on their website and we expect all businesses with over 50 employees to do so.

  1. Maintain 2 metres social distancing, wherever possible

Employers should re-design workspaces to maintain 2 metre distances between people by staggering start times, creating one-way walk-throughs, opening more entrances and exits, or changing seating layouts in break rooms.

  1. Where people cannot be 2 metres apart, manage transmission risk

Employers should look into putting barriers in shared spaces, creating workplace shift patterns or fixed teams minimising the number of people in contact with one another, or ensuring colleagues are facing away from each other.

  1. Reinforcing cleaning processes

Workplaces should be cleaned more frequently, paying close attention to high-contact objects like door handles and keyboards. Employers should provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points.

A downloadable notice is included in the documents, which employers should display in their workplaces to show their employees, customers and other visitors to their workplace, that they have followed this guidance.

Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19): sector guidance

[updated 17 September]

Find out how to make your workplace COVID-secure.

Applies to: England (see guidance for WalesScotland, and Northern Ireland)

These 14 guides cover a range of different types of work. Many businesses operate more than one type of workplace, such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles. You may need to use more than one of these guides as you think through what you need to do to keep people safe. Priority actions are outlined at the top of each guide.

Restaurants, Pubs, Bars and Takeaway Services

Guidance for people who work in or run restaurants, pubs, bars, cafes or takeaways.

The guidance now includes information for Step 3 of the roadmap, covering:

  • Serving customers indoors.
  • Updated social contact rules (gatherings of up to 30 people are permitted outdoors; gatherings of up to 6 people or 2 households of any size are permitted indoors).
  • Relaxation of rules around live performances, business events and soft play areas.

Close contact services

Guidance for people who provide close contact services, including hairdressers, barbers, beauticians, tattooists, sports and massage therapists, dress fitters, tailors and fashion designers.

It has been updated to add guidance for Step 3 of the roadmap; specifically:

  • Saunas and steam rooms can reopen.
  • Updated social contact rules (gatherings of up to 30 people are permitted outdoors; gatherings of up to 6 people or 2 households of any size are permitted indoors).
  • You can provide reading materials such as newspapers and magazines in client waiting areas.
  • You can provide refreshments in line with guidance for restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services.
  • Guidance clarified on use of gloves for treatment.

Shops and branches:

This guidance is for people who work in or run shops, branches, stores or similar environments.

It has been updated to included guidance for Step 3 of the roadmap. At Step 3, gatherings of up to 30 are permitted outdoors and gatherings of up to 6 or 2 households are permitted indoors.

Construction and other outdoor work

The guidance is for people who work in or run outdoor working environments.

Offices and contact centres

Guidance for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments.

Labs and research facilities

This guidance for people who work in or run indoor labs and research facilities and similar environments.

Other people’s homes

Guidance for people working in, visiting or delivering to other people’s homes.

Factories, plants and warehouses

This guidance for people who work in or run factories, plants and warehouses.

Vehicles

Guidance for people who work in or from vehicles, including couriers, mobile workers, lorry drivers, on-site transit and work vehicles, field forces and similar.

Heritage Locations

This guidance is for people who work or volunteer in heritage locations.

Hotels and Other Guest Accommodation

Guidance for people who work in or run hotels and other guest accommodation

Performing arts

This guidance is for people who work in performing arts, including arts organisations, venue operators and participants.

The visitor economy

This guidance is for people who work in hotels and guest accommodation, indoor and outdoor attractions, and business events and consumer shows. It has been updated to include information about Step 3 of the COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021 (the roadmap).

No earlier than 17 May, Step 3 of the government’s roadmap will allow for (subject to the data and the four tests set out):

  • visitor attractions and recreational venues can open both indoor and outdoor areas
  • most indoor and outdoor entertainment venues can open to the public
  • indoor and outdoor events can take place, but measures apply including following COVID-secure and social distancing guidance
  • indoor and outdoor guided tours are permitted, but must operate within the legal gathering limits and follow COVID-secure guidance
  • private hire coaches are permitted for a private group of a single household/bubble, and may also accommodate groups containing multiple households travelling together to the same destination or making the same journey (e.g. for the purposes of a leisure tour)
  • all heritage railway services are permitted to operate
  • private aircraft and hired self-fly aircraft are permitted for groups of up to 6 people or 2 household/bubbles
  • self-drive day-hire of boats is permitted, within the legal gathering limits
  • self-drive holiday-hire (where people make overnight stays) of boats is permitted for up to 6 people or 2 households/bubbles
  • skippered boats can operate within the legal gathering limits
  • domestic cruises (departing from, and returning to, UK ports) can operate, with restrictions on capacity.

The guidance also sets out other relevant measures, such as in relation to social contact.

Providers of grassroots sport and gym/leisure facilities 

Guidance for people who work in grassroots sport and sport facilities.

Safer Public Places – Managing Public Outdoor Settings

This guidance for local authorities, owners and operators to support the safe use and management of outdoor public places while the risk of COVID-19 transmission remains.

As of 19 July, this guidance replaces the following pieces of MHCLG safer public places guidance:

  • COVID-19: Safer Public Places – Urban Centres and Green Spaces
  • COVID-19: Guidance for Managing Playgrounds and Outdoor Gyms
  • COVID-19: Guidance for Managing Beaches, the Countryside and Coastal Areas
  • COVID-19: Guidance to Support Local Authority Compliance and Enforcement Activity, Including COVID-19 Secure Marshals.

Following Step 4 on 19 July, many COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted. This guidance includes key principles and other information local authorities, owners and operators may wish to continue to consider to support the safe use and management of outdoor public places while the risk of COVID-19 transmission remains.

This guidance includes considerations for the following spaces:

  • urban centres
  • green spaces
  • outdoor playgrounds
  • outdoor gyms
  • tourist hotspots, including beaches, the countryside and coastal areas.

It addresses the following:

  • principles for individuals
  • social distancing
  • face coverings
  • cleaning
  • hygiene
  • toilets
  • keeping staff safe
  • role of marshals
  • events
  • pavement licences
  • travel
  • tourist areas.

The document is available here. 

The HSE has put together a guide aimed at all employers and those who are self-employed and work with or near other people. It explains how you can protect people from coronavirus in your workplace, for example by putting in place social distancing measures, staggering shifts and providing additional handwashing facilities. The guidance may also be useful to workers and their representatives. 

Coronavirus: Returning to Work

[updated 16 August 2021]

This research briefing from the House of Commons Library provides an overview of the rules surrounding COVID-19 and returning to work. It discusses the lockdown legislation, employer’s health and safety obligations and when workers can refuse to go to work.

It highlights the publication in February 2021 of the government’s COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021, outlining its plans for lifting restrictions in England. The Scottish and Welsh and Northern Ireland governments have published similar documents.

Health and safety

Employers have to follow a range of health and safety legislation. In summary, employers have to:

  • Undertake a risk assessment.
  • Set up safe systems of work, informed by the risk assessment.
  • Implement the safe systems of work.
  • Keep the systems of work under review.

Refusing to go to work

All workers have an obligation to obey lawful and reasonable instructions given by their employer. However, employees who refuse to attend the workplace because they reasonably believe that there is a serious and imminent danger have certain protections under employment rights legislation. The protections also apply if an employee takes steps to protect others from such danger.

Whether an employee has a reasonable belief will always depend on the facts. The fact that an employer is complying with the Government’s working safely guidance will be a relevant factor, although other factors, such as the employee’s vulnerability to COVID-19 will also be relevant.

The Government’s working safely guidance says that there are certain workers who should not be asked to attend the workplace, such as those required to self-isolate.

Employers must ensure that the measures they adopt do not discriminate on the basis of protected characteristics, including age, sex, disability and pregnancy.

Health and safety law offers special protection to new and expectant mothers who must be suspended on full pay if they cannot be offered work that is safe.

Issues with returning to work

Issues have arisen with the approaches to returning to work, including:

  • The prospect that disagreements will arise between employers and employees over whether it is safe to go to work. Workers who live with or care for vulnerable people may also be concerned for their safety. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) say that these disagreements will be best addressed by discussion between employers, employees and health and safety representatives.
  • Employees who refuse to go to work because of reasonable fears about serious and imminent danger are protected from detriments or dismissal. However, it is unclear whether this covers those who have fears about the safety of their commute.
  • Some employers have suggested that they will introduce ‘no jab, no job’ policies. This could involve instructing existing employees to be vaccinated or making job offers conditional on a candidate being vaccinated. This could lead to discrimination claims from employees who cannot or who do not wish to be vaccinated.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): General guidance for safer workplaces

[Scotland]

The Scottish Government has produced sector guidance to support a safe economic restart and ensure workplaces are safe. This guidance sets out the Scottish Government’s expectations for organisations that do not fall within the sectors that guidance is currently available for. It is noted that sector guidance must be consulted in the first instance.

Organisations need to consider mitigations to ensure workplaces are safe and the transmission of the virus is minimised. This guidance addresses five key areas, which organisations need to consider these to ensure workplaces are safe and the transmission of the virus is minimised:

  1. Training and compliance
  2. Risk assessment – involving the workforce in a risk-based approach to a safer workplace
  3. Workforce planning and support – supporting those who should come to work, and those who should not
  4. Operational guide and checklist – changing the workplace environment to protect your workforce
  5. Deliveries, distribution and visitors – protecting your workforce and those who come on-site
  6. The guidance emphasises the importance of undertaking robust and regular risk assessments with full input from trade unions or workforce representatives, and to keep all risk mitigation measures under regular review so that workplaces continue to feel, and be, safe.

After a workplace risk assessment has been undertaken and measures to reduce the risk of transmission have been put in place, staff and their managers should use the individual risk assessment tool to identify the individual’s vulnerability level. Staff should be active participants in this risk assessment which uses factors including age, ethnicity, in addition to underlying health conditions to stratify risk.

The full guidance can be found here.

Technology sector

Issued by the Scottish Government, this guidance is for the technology sector on safe re-opening during the coronavirus pandemic.

It applies to companies where digital is a key component of the business; that is, businesses involved in the development of software or hardware, and covers sub-sectors such as cyber, data, infrastructure, and software engineering.

It came into effect on 21 August 2020 and sets out the Scottish Government’s expectations on what businesses of all sizes and sub-sectors need to consider as part of their planning for return to workplaces. The guidance emphasises in particular the importance of undertaking a robust and ongoing risk-based assessment with full input from trade union or workforce representatives, and to keep all risk mitigation measures under regular review so that workplaces continue to feel, and be, safe.

The five key areas companies should consider as part of their planning for return to the workplace and ongoing service delivery while minimising the transmission of the virus are:

  • Assessing risk involving the workforce in a risk-based approach to a safer workplace;
  • Workforce planning supporting those who should come to work, and those who should not;
  • Operational guide and checklist changing the workplace environment to protect your workforce;
  • Deliveries, distribution and visitors protecting your workforce and those who come on-site;
  • Training and compliance.

Performing arts and venues sector

This guidance came into force on 21 August 2020. It states that professionals working in the performing arts and those in formal training for associated professional careers, such as in Further and Higher Education, can use this specific guidance for training, rehearsal, recording, broadcast, pre-production, creative-learning related activities and performances without an audience now, and can pursue these activities in theatres and concert halls from Monday 24 August. However, it is noted that at the time of publication, performing arts venues cannot open to the public for live performances with an audience.

Non-professionals (meaning those participating in performing arts other than for work purposes), or groups which include non-professionals, may refer to this guidance for their activities, but in order to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus must at all times do so in line with government legislation and the Staying safe and protecting others guidance, particularly in relation to the number of individuals or households meeting together.

Non-professionals who are participating in an organised outdoor activity managed by an organisation – including a business, charity or club – can, from 24 August, meet outdoors. Organisers have a duty to ensure compliance with physical distancing, hygiene measures and this and other relevant guidance, and to undertake the same risk assessment processes as referenced in this guidance for professional organisations, including member/participant representatives in those processes.

Tourism and hospitality

This guidance is for the tourism and hospitality sectors in Scotland, and for other public venues able to reopen to the public from 24 August.

The sectors covered by this guidance are diverse. It is therefore necessary for this guidance to take a strategic approach, but it is designed for use by:

  • All accommodation providers (hotels, Bed and Breakfasts, self-catering, caravan/holiday parks etc);
  • Visitor attractions;
  • Marine and adventure tourism;
  • Other activity or experience tourism operations/centres;
  • Tour operators;
  • Pubs and restaurants;
  • Retail aspects of tourism;
  • Natural spaces insofar as they relate to tourism, such as the National Parks;
  • Funfairs and amusement parks (static and mobile);
  • Bingo halls.

Events sector

Guidance for the events sector is particularly aimed at event organisers.

It aims to provide general guidance for event organisers in supporting the restart of their businesses, with a particular focus on the workforce and workplace, in order to help events restart safely at the appropriate time. It is intended to provide advice on measures that need to be considered for COVID-19 only and is not intended to be an overall event guide.

A Coronavirus (COVID-19) Events Sectoral Guidance – Operational Guide Checklist for the Workplace is available here.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): charter for safe working practice

This Charter has been launched to enable housebuilders to make a common commitment to operate in line with government safe working guidance. Signatories to the Charter have publicly committed to safe working practices in accordance with government and Construction Leadership Council guidance. It has been co-produced by the government and the Home Building Federation.

Through adherence to this Charter, the aim is that the industry can continue to provide much needed additions to housing supply and play its part in the country’s economic recovery while delivering on its top priority: protecting the health and safety of the home building workforce, visitors to site and the local community.

According to HBF: “The Charter is a public facing commitment which supports the very detailed protocols individual builders have in place to ensure safe working on sites.”

Assessing risk

As an employer, you must protect people from harm. This includes taking reasonable steps to protect your workers and others from coronavirus. This is called a risk assessment and it’ll help you manage risk and protect people.

You must:

  • Identify what work activity or situations might cause transmission of the virus;
  • Think about who could be at risk;
  • Decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed;
  • Act to remove the activity or situation, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk.

If you have fewer than five employees, you don’t have to write anything down, but it might help if you do.

In terms of ‘Talking to your workers’ – separate guidance is available to help employers let people know what they need to do to protect themselves – see below.

This guidance goes on to cover who should go to work; protecting people who are at higher risk; getting into and leaving work; the work area; moving around; common areas; good hygiene; information and guidance; and PPE.

Talking with your workers about preventing coronavirus

This guide from HSE is aimed at all employers. It explains how to talk to workers about preventing coronavirus in the workplace. It gives guidance on reducing the risks from coronavirus, for example by putting in place social distancing measures, staggering shifts and providing additional handwashing facilities.

The guidance may also be useful to workers and their representatives, and those who are self-employed and work with or near other people. The law requires all employers to assess the risk of returning to work while the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing and to put steps in place to manage that risk.

It says that by talking to your workers you can:

  • Explain the changes you are making;
  • Get their thoughts and ideas about how to change the workplace to keep people safe and to ensure those changes are workable;
  • Continue to operate your business safely during the pandemic.

The guide covers five areas and suggests questions you can use to discuss managing the risks of coronavirus with your workers when you are doing your risk assessment. Actions can then be taken to make sure your plans are working safely and people have been listened to.

It notes how employers can hold conversations before returning to work so that plans can be developed and put in place before going back. You could then have further discussions soon after return to make sure the actions are working and are being followed.

You may also decide to repeat the discussions if something changes, for example:

  • New guidelines are published;
  • Lockdown restrictions change;
  • Plans you put in place don’t work as expected, eg if social distancing in welfare facilities isn’t working;
  • Work or tasks change someone in the workplace is diagnosed with coronavirus.

Importantly, you should make sure that there is time available for managers and workers to have these conversations. The guide relies on both managers and workers having an open and honest conversation.

It covers the following:

  • Social distancing;
  • Organising your workplace;
  • Cleaning and sanitising;
  • Information and guidance;
  • Wellbeing and support.

The guide can be found here.

This guide from ACAS may also be useful to workers and their representatives, and those who are self-employed and work with or near other people. The law requires all employers to assess the risk of returning to work while the coronavirus outbreak is ongoing and to put steps in place to manage that risk.

Wales: Unlocking our society and economy: continuing the conversation

This document sets out the steps the Welsh Government are considering in order to lead Wales out of the coronavirus pandemic.

It builds on the approach set out in the document published on 24 April (Leading Wales out of the coronavirus pandemic: a framework for recovery) which identified three pillars:

1 Measures and evidence

2 Principles underpinning adjustments to restrictions

3 Public health purpose.

It is felt that there is a growing risk that changed behaviours could lead to a rapid, possibly uncontrolled increase in the spread of the disease. To avoid this, the document notes that Wales needs to move at a pace which is matched by its capacity to identify and shut down new outbreaks of the disease – to test, trace and protect those who become ill or have the virus without symptoms and ensure that they self-isolate to protect onward transmission.

It says the next few weeks need to be spent adapting workplaces,  public spaces and other places where people come in contact with each other to the necessity of maintaining social distancing.

A traffic light-style system is set out, which is based on four stages to determine how those rules could be lifted – lockdown, red, amber and green – and includes the reopening of schools, seeing family and friends, playing sports and running businesses.

There are no dates given in the document, as changes can be only made when the scientific and medical advice says it is safe to do so, it says.

The document gives some detail to how life would look under each category:

  • Lockdown – Schools are only open to vulnerable pupils’ children and children of key workers, people are advised to stay at home, only leaving home for essential travel and to work from home if possible.
  • Red – Schools enabled to manage increase in demand from more key workers and vulnerable pupils returning; local travel, including for click-and-collect retail allowed; people allowed to provide or receive care and support to/from one family member or friend from outside the household
  • Amber – Priority groups of pupils to return to school in a phased approach; travel for leisure allowed together with meeting with small groups of family or friends for exercise; people able toaccess non-essential retail and services; more people travelling to work;
  • Green – All children and students able to access education; Unrestricted travel subject to ongoing precautions; All sports, leisure and cultural activities, as well as socialising with friends permitted, with physical distancing.

The Welsh government stressed that it is monitoring the “R rate” to decide what can be lifted and when.

Workplace guidance for employers and employees: COVID19

This workplace guidance is for employers and employees. The Welsh Government is now following a cautious approach to easing this lockdown and re-opening workplaces.

This guidance aims to help employers and employees who are currently working or who will be reopening workplaces understand what we believe is important and how everyone should approach the shared endeavour of safe work. It is for all workplaces.

Key information addressed includes the following:

  • workforce health: if someone becomes unwell in the workplace with a new, continuous cough; high temperature; the loss or a change in their normal sense of smell or taste they should be sent home and advised to follow the advice to stay at home
  • keep legal: if you are permitted to operate your business you must do so safely in a way that complies with any restrictions imposed by the Coronavirus Regulations, in addition to other legal obligations imposed on employers (such as health and safety legislation)
  • physical distancing
  • risk assessment: all risks should be assessed, with meaningful discussion with staff and/or their recognised trade union, before re-commencing work. If the business or organisation is required by law to have a written risk assessment (where there are 5 or more employees) then significant findings must be written down and control measures put in place.

A key information document is also available here.

Wales: Retailers: coronavirus workplace guidance

[Updated 16 August]

Published by the Welsh Government, this guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed in Wales understand how to work safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping as many people as possible 2 metres apart from those they do not live with.

A person responsible for carrying on a business, or providing a service (included in Part 4 of Schedule 1 to the Coronavirus Regulations)  or providing a service included on this list must undertake the following in respect of any premises where the business is carried on or the service is provided. They must take all reasonable measures to ensure:

  • that a distance of 2m is maintained between any persons on the premises (except between two members of the same household, or a carer and the person assisted by the carer)
  • that persons are only admitted to the business premises in sufficiently small numbers to make it possible to maintain that distance, and
  • that a distance of 2m is maintained between persons waiting to enter the business premises (except between two members of the same household, or a carer and the person assisted by the carer).

All employers, employees and the self-employed in Wales are being asked to:

  • show care by acting with compassion and understanding
  • comply with laws designed to keep us all safe
  • involve everyone, because safety is a shared endeavour
  • adapt workplaces and behaviours
  • communicate with clarity and consistency.

The guidance sets out how to work safely and gives practical considerations of how it can be applied in the workplace. It advises that all Statutory Guidance and supplementary guidance must be taken into account, on taking all reasonable measures to maintain physical distancing in the workplace.

It applies specifically to businesses in the retail sector and branches. The guidance applies to those currently open and will help those that are currently closed consider what their operations need to look like when they are allowed to open.

It is stressed that, in order to help decide which actions to take, an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment must be undertaken. This risk assessment must be done in consultation with the recognised trade union or, if there isn’t one, a representative chosen by workers, says the guidance.

Northern Ireland: NI Executive publishes plan for easing lockdown

A five-stage plan for easing the COVID-19 lockdown in Northern Ireland has been published by the Executive. The document sets out the approach the Executive will take when deciding how to ease restrictions in the future.

The plan does not include a timetable, but it is hoped to reach the final stage by December.

In making decisions, the Executive will consider three key criteria: the most up-to-date scientific evidence; the ability of the health service to cope; and the wider impacts on health, society and the economy.

Measures detailed in the plan include, amongst others:

Step 1:

  • encouragement to those unable to work from home to return to work on a phased basis
  • large outdoor-based retail can open including garden centres, though associated cafes and restaurants can only offer takeaway or collection
  • groups of four to six people who do not share a household can meet outdoors maintaining social distancing. With the exception of people who are shielding, visits to immediate family allowed indoors where social distancing is possible

Step 2:

  • non-food retail can open where numbers are limited, with social distancing
  • groups of up to 10 can meet outdoors
  • as demand increases on public transport within social distancing requirements, people encouraged to walk and cycle for short journeys where possible

Step 3:

  • phased return to office and onsite working subject to risk assessment. Work that can be done from home should still be done from home
  • schools expand provision for priority groups on a part-time basis, using a combination of in-school and remote learning
  • gatherings can accommodate up to 30 people while maintaining social distancing

Step 4:

  • other “contact” retail (hairdressers, fitness studios, tattoo and piercing parlours) can open subject to mitigations following risk assessment
  • schools expand provision to accommodate all pupils on part-time basis with combination of in-school and remote learning
  • reducing and staggering demand for public transport at peak times through continued home working and staggered start times for businesses

Step 5:

    • all able to return to work subject to mitigations. Remote working still strongly encouraged
    • hospitality retail (restaurants, cafes, pubs) can open subject to risk assessment, initially on a limited basis
    • expand early-year school provision to full-time basis
    • public transport operating full service but subject to ongoing risk assessment.

Coronavirus guidance for schools

Managing school premises during the coronavirus outbreak 

This guidance is for schools and other educational settings on managing premises during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

It is aimed at leaders of schools and other educational settings; and members of staff with responsibility for managing premises.

Schools are advised to review their arrangements for all building-related systems but in particular:

  • Hot and cold water systems;
  • Gas safety;
  • Fire safety;
  • Kitchen equipment;
  • Security including access control and intruder alarm systems.

While schools should review their arrangements for all building-related systems, says the guidance, in particular the following areas are important:

  • Water systems – drinking water, hot water services;
  • Ventilation – good ventilation is essential at all times in classrooms and particularly during this period;
  • Fire safety – fire safety management plans should be reviewed and checked in line with operational changes;
  • Cleaning – new cleaning arrangements in line with coronavirus preparations should also include regular systematic checks on drainage systems, where toilets are put back into use;
  • All other systems – recommission all systems before re-opening, as would normally be done after a long holiday period.

Safe working in education, childcare and children’s social care 

This guidance is for:

  • all staff in educational, childcare and children’s social care settings
  • children, young people and other learners

It applies to:

  • children’s homes, including secure children’s homes
  • residential special schools or colleges
  • fostering services
  • visits to family homes
  • alternative provision
  • early years and childcare settings
  • schools, including special schools
  • colleges, including specialist post-16 institutions.

This guidance explains the principles of infection prevention and control to enable safe working during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Re-opening the workplace after coronavirus

What’s expected in health and safety criminal law and how can you avoid prosecution?

Your organisation is looking ahead to stepwise resumption of operations once the COVID-19 lockdown starts to be eased. But what are your health and safety criminal law obligations for the return to work and what do you need to do to stay on the right side of the criminal law? Click here to read Simon Joyston-Bechal’s advice…

Guidance for Businesses Re-opening after Temporary Closure 

[Northern Ireland]

The purpose of this guidance note is to provide information to those responsible for premises that have been closed for a period of time and where the water supply has not been in regular use.

It is applicable in the current situation when buildings are re-opened following a period of closure as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, but it is also relevant to a period of closure for any reason. It provides guidance to ensure water quality is maintained when the water supply within a building is returned to use.

Legionella risks during the coronavirus pandemic

The HSE has reviewed guidance, which highlights that employers, the self-employed and people in control of premises, such as landlords, have a duty to protect people by identifying and controlling risks associated with legionella.

If a building was closed or has reduced occupancy during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, water system stagnation can occur due to lack of use. This increases the risks of Legionnaires’ disease.

A risk assessment should be reviewed and legionella risks managed:

  • When a water system is reinstated or started up again.
  • When some types of air conditioning units are restarted.

If the water system is still used regularly, the advice is to maintain the appropriate measures to prevent legionella growth.

This guidance covers the following:

  • Hot and cold water systems.
  • Cooling towers and evaporative condensers.
  • Air conditioning units.
  • Commercial spa pools and hot tubs.
  • Methods of control: temperature; biocides and other chemicals; physical methods; replacement.
  • Changing control methods: risks to operators.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) required for cleaning water systems.
  • Getting specialist help.

Government coronavirus guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice on accessing green spaces safely

This document sets out advice on using green spaces and protecting yourself and others from coronavirus.

In England, you can leave your home to exercise and spend time outdoors for recreation with your household or in groups of up to six people from outside your household.

When travelling to outdoor spaces, it is important that people respect the rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Do not travel to different parts of the UK where it would be inconsistent with guidance or regulations issued by the relevant devolved administration.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Transport and travel guidance

How to self-isolate when you travel to England

This guidance has been updated to include a brief explanation of new rules coming into force from 15 February.

From this date, if you arrive in England and have travelled in a country on the banned travel list (sometimes called the ‘red list’) in the last 10 days, you will need to quarantine (self-isolate) in a government quarantine hotel for 10 days. You will need to book your hotel before you travel and 2 COVID-19 tests to take during your quarantine.

If you’re coming from a country that is not on the banned travel list, you will need to quarantine at home for 10 days. You will need to book 2 COVID-19 tests before you arrive to take during your quarantine.

You do not need to quarantine in England if you’re travelling from Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man and have not been in any other countries in the last 10 days.

The guidance also sets out:

  • Who must self-isolate;
  • How you should travel to the place where you are self-isolating;
  • How to self-isolate;
  • Support to help you self-isolate;
  • What to do if you get coronavirus symptoms.

Safer transport guidance for operators

(updated 22 September 2021)

This guide aims to help transport organisations and people who work in or from vehicles in England understand how to provide safer workplaces and services for themselves, their workers and passengers. It outlines measures to assess and address the risks of coronavirus (COVID-19). It applies to transport operators and organisations, and people who work in or from vehicles, including couriers, mobile workers, lorry drivers, on-site transit and work vehicles.

The guidance on face coverings, who should be at work and protecting people who are at higher risk has been updated.

It advises that face coverings should be worn in crowded and enclosed areas where you come into contact with people you do not usually meet. If a face covering is worn:

  • It is important to wash or sanitise hands before and after touching the face covering.
  • Use a ‘black bag’ waste bin or litter bin to dispose of it – face coverings should not be put in a recycling bin or be dropped as litter.

The guidance also advises to be mindful and respectful of the facts that:

  • Some people are not able to wear face coverings and the reasons for this may not be visible to others.
  • A face covering may inhibit communication with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound.

Who should be at work

Since restrictions were relaxed in the summer, there has been a gradual return to offices and workplaces. As workers return to their workplaces, employers should continue to follow the Working safely guidance.

You should discuss a return to the workplace with workers and trade unions to make working arrangements that meet both business and individual needs.

Employers should remain responsive to workers’ needs, particularly during this period when not every adult will have been offered 2 vaccine doses. Employers should adopt practices that help to reduce the risks to individuals in the workplace.

Ways of working have shifted through the pandemic and many employers are looking at future hybrid models which include an element of home working. Whatever model is chosen for the longer term, this should be discussed with those who might be affected and also with employee representatives.

Employers should discuss the timing and, where applicable, phasing of any return with workers. To help them feel safe returning to work, consult with them on any health and safety measures that have been put in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading.

When considering workers returning to the workplace, you should:

  • Reflect this in your workplace risk assessment.
  • Take action to manage the risk of COVID-19 spreading, in line with this guidance.

Coronavirus advice from the HSE

coronavirus face mask

HSE issue safety alert for KN95 facemask

The HSE is warning against the use of KN95 facemasks as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

A safety alert has been issued [11 June 2020], urging all employers and suppliers not to purchase or use KN95 facemasks as PPE.

The safety alert can be found here.

Cleaning your workplace to reduce risk from coronavirus (COVID-19)

Advice from the HSE highlights the fact that coronavirus can transfer from people to surfaces. It can be passed on to others who touch the same surfaces. Keeping your workplace clean reduces the potential for coronavirus to spread and is a critical part of making and keeping your business ‘COVID-secure’, it says.

This guidance aims to help employers to clean the workplace to reduce risk. It is suggested that the frequency of cleaning may need to be increased how thoroughly cleaning is undertaken, as well as cleaning surfaces that are not normally cleaned.

The HSE has also issued advice within a document titled: Social distancing, keeping businesses open and in-work activities during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. It covers guidance on social distancing, essential and non-essential work, and in-work activity.

Also released is guidance covering RIDDOR, first aid and chemicals:

First aid cover and qualifications during coronavirus (COVID-19)

If first aid cover for a business is reduced because of coronavirus or the first aid training needed is not available, this advice points out that there are some things that can be done to still comply with the law.

Arrangements for regulation of chemicals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak 

The HSE has made some administrative changes in the provision of services for regulating chemicals during the coronavirus outbreak. These are set out for each chemical regime, with updated details on how to contact the HSE.

Reporting outbreaks of coronavirus (COVID-19) – updated

COVID-19 early outbreak management information has been created, and updated, to make sure that people who run businesses or organisations:

  • Know how to recognise and report an incident of coronavirus (COVID-19);
  • Are aware of measures local health protection teams may advise in order to contain it.

This information is contained within ‘action cards’ that have been designed for specific situations where an outbreak could occur. This could be a:

  • Restaurant or café;
  • Construction site;
  • Place of worship.

The cards are designed to be printed or downloaded to keep on hand in your business or organisation.

Updates have been made to the definition of an outbreak, in line with revised guidelines.

RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19

What to report?

  • Dangerous occurrences: if something happens at work which results in (or could result in) the release or escape of coronavirus you must report this as a dangerous occurrence
  • Cases of disease: exposure to a biological agent: if there is reasonable evidence that someone diagnosed with COVID-19 was likely exposed because of their work you must report this as an exposure to a biological agent using the case of disease report.

This HSE guidance is for the person reporting, usually the employer (known as the ‘responsible person’). The HSE advise following the RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19 guidance on what to report before using this detailed guidance.

It is recognised that these are not easy criteria to apply in the unusual circumstances presented by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This guidance gives further detail to help determine if a report is needed and provides some principles to use when assessing the information available and making a judgement.

The aim of the guidance is to help responsible persons determine whether reports need to be made.

It covers:

  • Dangerous Occurrences: What the law says.
    • Is the incident reportable as a dangerous occurrence?
  • Cases of disease, exposure to a biological agent: What the law says.
    • Reasonable evidence of occupational exposure.
    • Diagnosis.
  • Work-related deaths due to occupational exposure to a biological agent: What the law says.
    • Reasonable evidence of occupational exposure.
    • Cause of death.
    • Deaths following an existing case of disease report.

coronavirus key worker

Face coverings to become mandatory on public transport

From 15 June, face coverings will be required while using public transport in England.

The government will work with operators to make it mandatory for passengers to wear face coverings when using public transport in England, the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced.

Wherever possible people should continue to avoid public transport and walk, cycle or drive, but it is recognised that for some people this may not be an option. Transport usage has been slowly increasing, including on the tube which has seen around a 20% rise last week compared to the week before.


Other related content from SHP and IFSEC Global

Returning to work once COVID-19 lockdown relaxes – What’s expected in health and safety criminal law and how can you avoid prosecution?

On-demand webinar: Health and safety law conundrums during the COVID-19 pandemic

A guide to home working and self-isolation

COVID-19 – What does your organisation need to do to stay the right side of criminal law?

SHP legislation update eBook

Can employers be prosecuted if employees are exposed to COVID-19?

Pregnant workers and COVID–19

Performing health/medical surveillance: Coronavirus

A pandemic within a pandemic?

Legionella: Where low occupancy poses water-borne risks

What is the secret behind the success of the NHS Nightingale project?

Coronavirus: The security and fire safety sector

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What does the coronavirus mean for the fire safety sector?

Can facial recognition help contain the Coronavirus?

£800,000 worth of ‘coronavirus related’ cyber scams recorded


HMRC Furlough Advice

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

coronavirus shoppingThe UK’s coronavirus furlough scheme will finish at the end of October, Chancellor Rishi Sunak recently confirmed. He also set out how employers will have to start sharing the cost of the scheme.

From August, employers must pay National Insurance and pension contributions, then 10% of pay from September, rising to 20% in October. Also, workers will be allowed to return to work part-time from July, but with companies paying 100% of wages.

Mr Sunak said the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will adjust so “those who are able to work can do so”.

Some 8.4 million workers are having 80% of their salaries paid for by the government – up to £2,500 a month – under the scheme, which was originally intended to last until the end of July.

Under these changes, furloughed workers will continue to get 80% of pay until the end of October, but by then a fifth of their salary will have to be met by employers.

“Then, after eight months of this extraordinary intervention of the government stepping in to help pay people’s wages, the scheme will close,” Mr Sunak said.

How will the scheme change?

From 1 July, businesses will be allowed to bring furloughed employees back part-time, a month earlier than previously announced. The move is aimed to help support people back to work, the government said.

It will be down to individual firms to decide what part-time means. They will be able to set the hours and shift patterns staff will work when they return, but companies will have to pay wages while they are in work.

From 1 August the level of government grant will be reduced “to reflect that people are returning to work”.

Furloughed workers will continue to receive 80% of their pay, but from August it will include a growing employer contribution. It will start with bosses paying NI and pensions in August, plus 10% of pay in September, rising to 20% in October.

During August the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500. Employers will have to pay NI and pension contributions. For the average claim, that’s 5% of the gross employment costs the employer would have incurred had the employee had not been furloughed.

In September, the government will cut its grants to 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,190. Employers will pay NI and pension contributions and 10% of wages to make up the 80% total up to a cap of £2,500. That works out at 14% of the average gross employment costs the employer would have incurred.

In October the government grant will be cut to 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875. Employers will pay NI and pension contributions and 20% of wages to make up the 80% total up to a cap of £2,500. That’s 23% of the gross employment costs the employer would have incurred had the employee not been furloughed.

The following guidance from HMRC is available:

Emergency bill to strengthen coronavirus (COVID-19) response plans

The Coronavirus Bill, introduced in the House of Commons on 19 March 2020, received Royal Assent on 25 March 2020 and is now in force.

The purpose of the Act is to enable the Government to respond to an emergency situation and manage the effects of a covid-19 pandemic. A severe pandemic could infect up to 80% of the population leading to a reduced workforce, increased pressure on health services and death management processes. The Bill contains temporary measures designed to either amend existing legislative provisions or introduce new statutory powers which are designed to mitigate these impacts.

Vulnerable groups

Chief medical adviser Prof Chris Whitty advises that the group of people who should take “particular care to minimise their social contact” are:

  • People over the age of 70
  • Other adults who would normally be advised to have the flu vaccine (such as those with chronic diseases);
  • Pregnant women.

Stay at home: Guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection

Public Health England stay at home guidance is intended for:

  • People with symptoms that may be caused by coronavirus, and do not require hospital treatment, who must remain at home until they are well;
  • Those living in households with someone who shows symptoms that may be caused by coronavirus.

Coronavirus symptoms: UK adds loss of smell and taste to list

Loss of smell or taste have been added to the UK’s list of coronavirus symptoms that people should look out for and act upon. Until now, only a fever and cough were triggers for people to shut themselves away in self-isolation in case they had and could spread the infection. Ear, nose and throat doctors had been warning for weeks that more symptoms should be included. Scientific advisers told the government to update the advice.

If you or someone you live with has any of these symptoms – a new, continuous cough, fever or loss of smell or taste – the advice is stay at home for seven days to stop the risk of giving coronavirus to others.

Loss of smell and taste may still be signs of other respiratory infections, such as the common cold. Experts say fever and cough remain the most important symptoms of coronavirus to look out for.

Government launches plan to tackle loneliness during coronavirus lockdown

The Government has launched a major effort to tackle loneliness and social isolation during the coronavirus outbreak and period of social distancing. Led by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, the plan will aim to ensure that, for people of all ages and backgrounds, staying at home does not need to lead to loneliness.

The latest #Let’sTalkLoneliness public campaign has been rolled out to get people talking openly about loneliness, which includes new public guidance offering useful tips and advice on what to do to look after yourself and others safely.

In a wide-ranging cross-Government and cross-sector plan, Dowden has also announced that:

  • Smaller, community-based organisations in England helping people to stay connected in local communities will benefit from being a priority category of the £750 million package of support for charities announced by the Chancellor on 8 April;
  • National loneliness organisations will be allocated a guaranteed £5 million worth of funding to continue and adapt their critical work at this time;
  • As part of the national effort, loneliness charities including Age UK will be supported to work with NHS Volunteer Responders in their communities.

More information about ‘Let’s Talk Lonliness, can be found here.

Health and wellbeing considerations for home working and self-isolation

Many businesses have begun to embrace the idea of flexible working and working from home and, in the current climate, more and more of us may find ourselves plunged into doing so for longer than the one to two days a week, which employers and employees adapt to fairly easily, potentially leading to increased work-related stress and mental health conditions for employers.

It is predicted that by 2020, half of UK’s workforce will work from home, according to the Office for National Statistics. SHP, Barbour EHS and The Healthy Work Company have compiled a home working hub to provide research, case studies, videos and resources to enable you to lead this transition in a way which safeguards the health and wellbeing of your teams and maximises the opportunity to embrace new ways of working for the future and how to maintain a positive mental health and limit stress, as well as helping to create a healthy workplace for individuals.

How do I know if I have coronavirus?

BBC News’ Health and Science Reporter, Laura Foster, takes a look in this short video.

Can employers be prosecuted if employees are exposed to COVID-19?

Amidst all the coronavirus headlines, some commentators have speculated that employers may be about to face prosecution if they don’t take all precautions possible to protect staff and third parties from infection. Is this really the case, find out here?

UK Budget 2020

Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a £30bn package to help the economy get through the coronavirus outbreak in his Budget on 11 March 2020. He added that the NHS would get “whatever resources it needs”.

The measures put in place to mitigate the effect of the coronavirus outbreak include:

  • £5bn emergency response fund to support the NHS and other public services;
  • Statutory sick pay will be paid to all those who choose to self-isolate, even if they don’t have symptoms;
  • Those on employee benefits who get ill will be able to “claim from day one instead of day eight”;
  • A £500m “hardship fund” to be given to local authorities to help vulnerable people in their areas;
  • Firms with fewer than 250 staff will be refunded for sick pay payments for two weeks;
  • Small and medium-sized businesses will be able to access “business interruption” loans of up to £1.2m;
  • Business rates will be abolished for firms in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors with a rateable value below £51,000. The measure will apply to firms including shops, cinemas, restaurants and hotels;
  • “Fiscal loosening” of £18bn to support the economy this year, taking the total fiscal stimulus to £30bn.

Coronavirus pandemic

coronavirus earthOn 11 March, the outbreak was labelled a coronavirus pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO Chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the number of cases outside China had increased 13-fold over the past two weeks. He said he was “deeply concerned” by “alarming levels of inaction” over the virus.

A pandemic is a disease that is spreading in multiple countries around the world at the same time.

How does coronavirus spread?

When someone who has COVID-19 coughs or exhales they release droplets of infected fluid. Most of these droplets fall on nearby surfaces and objects – such as desks, tables or telephones.

People could catch COVID-19 by touching contaminated surfaces or objects – and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. If they are standing within one meter of a person with COVID-19 they can catch it by breathing in droplets coughed out or exhaled by them. In other words, COVID-19 spreads in a similar way to flu.

Preventing coronavirus in the workplace

The guidance stresses that employers should start taking these the following measures now, even if COVID-19 has not arrived in the communities where they operate:

  • Make sure your workplaces are clean and hygienic.
    • Surfaces (eg desks and tables) and objects (eg telephones, keyboards) need to be wiped with disinfectant regularly.
  • Promote regular and thorough hand-washing by employees, contractors and customers.
    • Put sanitizing hand rub dispensers in prominent places around the workplace. Make sure these dispensers are regularly refilled;
    • Display posters promoting hand-washing;
    • Offer guidance from occupational health and safety officers;
    • Make sure that staff, contractors and customers have access to places where they can wash hands with soap and water.
  • Promote good respiratory hygiene in the workplace.
    • Display posters promoting respiratory hygiene. Combine this with other communication measures;
    • Ensure tissues are available at your workplaces, for those who develop a runny nose or cough at work, along with closed bins for hygienically disposing of them;
  • Advise employees and contractors to consult national travel plans before going on business trips.
  • Brief your employees, contractors and customers that if COVID-19 starts spreading in your community anyone with even a mild cough or low-grade fever (37.3 C or more) needs to stay at home.
    • Make clear to employees that they will be able to count this time off as sick leave.

The guidance goes on to advise on procedures for employees who travel (before travelling, during and after), and sets out advice for getting a business ready should COVID-19 arrive in the workplace. It is stressed that simple a precautionary measure and planning can make a big difference. Action now will help protect your employees and your business.

COVID-19 – What does your organisation need to do to stay on the right side of the criminal law?

Your organisation is now making preparations for the coming coronavirus pandemic and you are deluged with specific concerns, information and action plans that need to be developed. Amongst the many questions being asked by the Board, should be a cut through question: ‘What are our health and safety criminal law obligations in dealing with the Coronavirus, what do we have to do and how can we protect ourselves from blame if we get it wrong?’

Read Lawyer Simon Joyston-Bechal’s take on it here.

How the UK dealt with coronavirus

The initial response to the outbreak had the fundamental objectives to deploy phased actions to Contain, Delay, and Mitigate any outbreak, using Research to inform policy development. The different phases, types and scale of actions depends upon how the course of the outbreak unfolds over time, said the plan. The overall phases of the plan to respond to COVID-19 are as follows:

  • Contain: detect early cases, follow up close contacts, and prevent the disease taking hold in this country for as long as is reasonably possible;
  • Delay: slow the spread in this country, if it does take hold, lowering the peak impact and pushing it away from the winter season;
  • Research: better understand the virus and the actions that will lessen its effect on the UK population; innovate responses including diagnostics, drugs and vaccines; use the evidence to inform the development of the most effective models of care;
  • Mitigate: provide the best care possible for people who become ill, support hospitals to maintain essential services and ensure ongoing support for people ill in the community to minimise the overall impact of the disease on society, public services and on the economy.

Ultimately, the response to COVID-19 is guided by the international situation, the advice of organisations such as the WHO, surveillance, data modelling based on the best available evidence and the recommendations of expert bodies.

System wide response plans for pandemic influenza, focused on the continuity of public and critical services and the stability of the economy, have been adapted for COVID-19, based on the best available scientific evidence and advice. Click here for the latest information on the current situation.

It is stressed that the nature and scale of the response depends on the course of the disease, which cannot be predicted accurately at this point. As understanding of the disease increases and its impact becomes clearer, the government will issue further detailed advice about what to expect if/when further measures become necessary.

Coronavirus delay phase

In addition to actions taken as part of the Contain phase, the plan emphasises the actions that people can be taking themselves to help delay the peak of the infection; especially encouraging people to wash hands more often; and the catch it, bin it, kill it strategy for those with coughs and sneezes.

Delaying the spread of the disease requires everyone to follow the advice set out in this document. The benefits of doing so are that if the peak of the outbreak can be delayed until the warmer months, the risk of overlapping with seasonal flu and other challenges (societal or medical) that the colder months bring can be significantly reduced.

Coronavirus: Advice for businesses

The UK Government is advising businesses to build their own resilience by reviewing their business continuity plans and following the advice for employers available here.

Businesses should also ensure that they keep up to date with the situation as it changes at.

Click here to read the government’s plan in full.

Emergency support

The TUC is calling on the government to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak by providing emergency support for the millions of UK workers who are currently missing out on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

In a letter to Matt Hancock and Thérèse Coffey, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady warns that inadequate provision of sick pay could stop people taking up public health advice, since many workers will struggle to meet basic living costs if they can’t attend work for a prolonged period.

As a result, some may feel they have no choice but to go to work while ill, or against government advice.

Currently, nearly 2 million of the lowest-paid workers don’t earn enough to qualify for statutory sick pay. According to TUC analysis this includes:

  • 34% of workers on zero-hours contracts;
  • 1 in 10 women in work;
  • More than a fifth (22%) of workers aged 16-24;
  • More than a quarter (26%) of workers aged 65 and over, identified by government as one of the groups most vulnerable to the virus.

WHO warns that supplies of PPE is “rapidly depleting”

In his daily briefing in Geneva on March 4 WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that supplies of PPE, such as the gloves, medical masks, respirators, goggles, face shields, gowns, and aprons used by health workers fighting coronavirus are “rapidly depleting” and warned against “hoarding and misuse”.

“We are concerned that countries’ abilities to respond are being compromised by the severe and increasing disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment … caused by rising demand, hoarding and misuse,” he said.

Healthcare workers rely on personal protective equipment to protect themselves and their patients from being infected and infecting others. But, says WHO, shortages are leaving doctors, nurses and other frontline workers dangerously ill-equipped. “Without secure supply chains, the risk to healthcare workers around the world is real. Industry and governments must act quickly to boost supply, ease export restrictions and put measures in place to stop speculation and hoarding. We can’t stop COVID-19 without protecting health workers first,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, prices have surged. Surgical masks have seen a sixfold increase, N95 respirators have trebled and gowns have doubled.

Supplies can take months to deliver and market manipulation is widespread, with stocks frequently sold to the highest bidder.

WHO has so far shipped nearly half a million sets of personal protective equipment to 47 countries,* but supplies are rapidly depleting.

Based on WHO modelling, an estimated 89 million medical masks are required for the COVID-19 response each month. For examination gloves, that figure goes up to 76 million, while international demand for goggles stands at 1.6 million per month.

Recent WHO guidance calls for the rational and appropriate use of PPE in healthcare settings, and the effective management of supply chains.

WHO is working with governments, industry and the Pandemic Supply Chain Network to boost production and secure allocations for critically affected and at-risk countries.

To meet rising global demand, WHO estimates that industry must increase manufacturing by 40%.

Governments should develop incentives for industry to ramp up production, says WHO. This includes easing restrictions on the export and distribution of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies.

Every day, WHO is providing guidance, supporting secure supply chains, and delivering critical equipment to countries in need.

The Department of Health and Social Care is evaluating the potential impact of coronavirus on the supply of medicines and medical goods.

There were no current medicine shortages in the UK linked to the situation in China but the UK government is taking precautionary measures to help continue the uninterrupted supply of medicines to patients in the UK.

Coronavirus: no evidence that food is a source or transmission route

EFSA is closely monitoring the situation regarding the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that is affecting a large number of countries across the globe. There is currently no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus.

EFSA’s Chief Scientist, Marta Hugas, said: “Experiences from previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), show that transmission through food consumption did not occur. At the moment, there is no evidence to suggest that coronavirus is any different in this respect.”

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has said that while animals in China were the likely source of the initial infection, the virus is spreading from person to person.

£800,000 worth of ‘coronavirus related’ cyber scams recorded

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has warned the public to be aware of scams and fraudulent emails relating to the coronavirus outbreak. Similar scams have reportedly already tricked the UK public out of £800,000, according to the police.

Coronavirus Advice for employersWhat is Coronavirus?

Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a new respiratory illness that has not previously been seen in humans.

Where do coronaviruses come from?

Coronaviruses are viruses that circulate among animals but some of them are also known to affect humans. After they have infected humans, they can eventually be transmitted to humans.

What is the mode of transmission? How (easily) does it spread?

Because it’s a new illness, it is not known exactly how coronavirus spreads from person to person, but similar viruses spread by respiratory droplets that people sneeze, cough, or exhale. While animals are the source of the virus, this virus is now spreading from one person to another (human-to-human transmission). At time of writing, there is currently not enough epidemiological information to determine how easily and sustainably this virus is spreading between people.

What are the symptoms?

With many similarities of a common cold, the main signs of infection are fever (high temperature) and a cough as well as shortness of breath and breathing difficulties and sore throat.

How to protect yourself

The NHS advise the following measures to help stop germs like coronavirus spreading:

  • Always carry tissues with you and use them to catch your cough or sneeze. Then bin the tissue, and wash hands, or use a sanitiser gel;
  • Wash hands often with soap and water, especially after using public transport. Use a sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available;
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;
  • Avoid close contact with people who are unwell.

Coronavirus: Supporting Workers

What are your rights if working from home?

This article has been published by BBC News, and addresses questions around worker’s rights if working from home during the pandemic. Under the stringent new measures announced by the UK government [16 March] to combat the spread of coronavirus, everyone should work from home if they can.

For many people, homeworking will not be possible, but they still face the possibility of self-isolation, under the guidelines announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Changes have been made to the sick pay system. The Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 are in force. There has been concern that people will be more likely to infect others if they do not have incentives to stay at home when they are at risk.

IOSH stress that employers have a role to play in preventing the spread of the disease by taking sensible action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 such as ensuring that workers have access to appropriate hygiene facilities such hot water, soap and bins to get rid of used tissues.

Workers are advised to maintain good hygiene standards around the workplace by following the latest advice from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website which includes the following basic protective measures:

  • Wash hands frequently with alcohol-based hand wash or wash with soap and water;
  • Maintain social distancing maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet distance) between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing;
  • Avoid touching eyes, mouth and nose;
  • Practice respiratory hygiene;
  • Stay informed and follow the advice given by health care providers.

COVID-19: support for businesses

The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19. This includes a package of measures to support businesses including:

  • a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
  • deferring VAT and Self-Assessment payments
  • a Self-employment Income Support Scheme
  • a Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs)
  • a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England
  • small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
  • grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank
  • a new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loansthe HMRC Time To Pay Scheme.

The guidance document sets out detailed information on the following:

  • Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
  • Support for businesses through deferring VAT payments
  • Support for businesses through deferring Self-Assessment payments on account
  • Support for self-employed through the Self-employment Income Support Scheme
  • Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees
  • Support for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses that pay business rates
  • Support for nursery businesses that pay business rates
  • Support for businesses that pay little or no business rates
  • Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
  • Support for large businesses through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme
  • Support for larger firms through the COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility
  • Support for businesses paying tax: Time to Pay service
  • Commercial insurance
  • Protection from eviction for commercial tenants
  • Extension of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) arrangements.

Support for businesses in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

COVID-19: guidance for employees

This guidance sets out advice on:

  • going to work
  • staying at home
  • sick pay
  • furloughed workers
  • claiming benefits.

Poster now available

The poster is to support the guidance for employers and businesses; it is available here.

Social distancing in the workplace during coronavirus (COVID-19): sector guidance

This advice is for employers on social distancing during coronavirus (COVID-19). It is set out as tailored advice for different scenarios, to provide an example of how social distancing and other measures might be implemented by employers in England to help protect their workforce and customers from coronavirus while still continuing to trade. These are not intended to be comprehensive or to represent every business’s situation but are described as illustrative examples.

The examples cover the following:

  • Shops running a pick-up or delivery service
  • Tradespeople and working in people’s homes
  • Construction
  • Manufacturing and processing businesses
  • Retail
  • Logistics businesses
  • Outdoor businesses
  • Farming: visiting farms for animal health and welfare
  • Fishing or other short-term offshore work
  • Cargo-shipping or other long-term offshore work
  • Transport businesses
  • Waste management businesses

Acas coronavirus guidance

Shielding and vulnerable people

This advice from Acas stresses that people who are at high risk of getting a severe illness if they catch coronavirus (COVID-19) are ‘clinically vulnerable’, and as such must pay particular attention to social distancing.

Employers must be especially careful and take extra steps for anyone in their workforce who is in a vulnerable group. Some people will have been identified as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’, which means they have a very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus. Clinically extremely vulnerable people should take particularly strict social distancing measures (‘shielding’). Anyone in this group will have previously had a letter from the NHS or their GP telling them this, and may have been shielding before.

For people living with somebody who is shielding, the government’s advice is that they should work from home if they can during the national lockdown in England (from 5 November 2020). If they cannot work from home, they should go into work. They should speak to their employer if they have any concerns.

Acas guidance: Working safely during coronavirus

ACAS has updated its advice, highlighting the current government coronavirus advice is that anyone who can work effectively from home should do so.

For workplaces that are open, everyone should:

  • Follow government guidance on making the workplace safe;
  • Avoid busy commuting times on public transport where travel is essential, and wear a face covering;
  • Wash their hands regularly.

You must not go to work if you or anyone in your household has symptoms.

In terms of making a workplace safe, employers must:

  • Encourage staff to work from home, wherever possible;
  • Have completed a ‘risk assessment’, and taken reasonable steps to prevent harm in the workplace;
  • Follow the government guidelines on safer working.

Further guidance is given on social distancing at work, and what employers should do while a workplace is closed. The importance of maintaining communication with workers is highlighted.

Acas guidance: Working from home 

In this guidance, employers and employees are advised to be flexible and sensitive to each other’s situation when working from home because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Flexible working during the pandemic and beyond

Published by the CIPD, this guidance considers how flexible working may be approached in the short and long term, both to support health and safety obligations to employees returning to the traditional workplace, but also to generate potential people benefits and opportunities for organisations.

It suggests that, before the pandemic, only around 5% of the workforce worked mainly from home. This had increased steadily for five years, but the current situation has escalated remote working at a rapid pace. However, pandemic forms of flexibility are very different from typical flexible working approaches: potentially balancing work with childcare, home-schooling and supporting vulnerable relatives, as well as working from kitchens and living rooms. There are lessons to be learned about flexible working, but the unusual nature of the situation should be borne in mind. Organisations should also note that remote or homeworking is just one form of flexible working, of which there are many.

Organisations should review the fact that flexible working has many potential benefits for organisations and employees. There is a wide range of research and a strong evidence base for how flexibility can support inclusion, help to reduce the gender pay gap, support sustainability initiatives, attract and retain talented individuals, increase productivity and support wellbeing. Potential concerns about people being overlooked for promotion if working from home more than other colleagues may also need to be addressed.

Prior to the pandemic, flexible working uptake was slow, but there are early indications that many employees will wish to continue some degree of homeworking (or flexible working in general) following the pandemic, says the guidance.

It goes on to address:

  • flexible working and the law
  • flexible working in the short term
  • addressing short term employee needs
  • returning to the workplace
  • flexible working – longer term considerations.

Case studies are included to illustrate good practice.

Mental health during coronavirus 

Workplace expert Acas has published new guidance to help staff manage their mental health at work during coronavirus.

An Acas-commissioned YouGov survey conducted during coronavirus has found that nearly 2 out of 5 employees working from home felt stressed, anxious or experienced mental health difficulties due to their working situation.

The poll also found that:

  • 1 in 2 people working from home felt isolated
  • 7 out of 10 felt that they were missing social interactions with others at work.

Acas’s full advice includes practical steps for employees, managers and employers to help everyone’s mental health during this difficult time.

RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19

What to report?

  • Dangerous occurrences: if something happens at work which results in (or could result in) the release or escape of coronavirus you must report this as a dangerous occurrence
  • Cases of disease: exposure to a biological agent: if there is reasonable evidence that someone diagnosed with COVID-19 was likely exposed because of their work you must report this as an exposure to a biological agent using the case of disease report.

First aid cover and qualifications during coronavirus (COVID-19)

If first aid cover for a business is reduced because of coronavirus or the first aid training needed is not available, this advice points out that there are some things that can be done to still comply with the law.

Arrangements for regulation of chemicals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak 

The HSE has made some administrative changes in the provision of services for regulating chemicals during the coronavirus outbreak.  These are set out for each chemical regime, with updated details on how to contact the HSE.

Wellbeing and mental health during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) have issued advice about how to look after wellbeing and mental health for those who cannot return to the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also includes information on how FCO may be able to help, if a British national needs help, if unable to return to the UK from abroad.

It advises those in such a position to keep in regular contact with the people who usually offer support, such as family, friends and colleagues, especially if you are self-isolating abroad.

Self-isolating: What this means in practice

This means staying at home for 10 days and not going to work, schools or public areas.

Avoid having visitors to your home; however, it is OK for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food.

These steps are recommended to limit the potential spread of infection.

Find out what to do using the NHS 111 online coronavirus service.

The NHS advice is do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Call 111 if you need to speak to someone.

Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland:

  • Scotland: call your GP surgery or call 111 if your surgery is not open;
  • Wales: call 111;
  • Northern Ireland: call 111.

Legislation

Coronavirus Act 2020

The Coronavirus Bill, introduced in the House of Commons on 19 March 2020, received Royal Assent on 25 March 2020 and is now in force.

The purpose of the Coronavirus Act is to enable the Government to respond to an emergency situation and manage the effects of a covid-19 pandemic. A severe pandemic could infect up to 80% of the population leading to a reduced workforce, increased pressure on health services and death management processes. The Bill contains temporary measures designed to either amend existing legislative provisions or introduce new statutory powers which are designed to mitigate these impacts.

The Bill aims to support Government in the following:

  • Increasing the available health and social care workforce;
  • Easing the burden on frontline staff;
  • Containing and slowing the virus;
  • Managing the deceased with respect and dignity;
  • Supporting people.

The Act is required as part of a concerted effort across the whole of the UK to tackle the covid-19 outbreak. The intention is that it will enable the right people from public bodies across the UK to take appropriate actions at the right times to manage the effects of the outbreak.

As part of its contingency planning, the Government has considered what measures would be needed during a severe covid-19 outbreak to reduce the pressure of key services and limit the spread of infection.

It is stressed that these are extraordinary measures that do not apply in normal circumstances. For this reason, the legislation will be time-limited for two years and it is neither necessary nor appropriate for all of these measures come into force immediately. Instead, many of the measures in can be commenced from area to area and time to time, so as to ensure that the need to protect the public’s health can be aligned with the need to safeguard individuals’ rights. These measures can subsequently be suspended and then later reactivated, if circumstances permit, over the lifetime of the Act. 

Coronavirus bill: summary of impacts

The Department of Health and Social Care issued an impact assessment document. It provides a summary of impacts relating to clauses within the Coronavirus Bill 2020 (now Act) and provides an overview of the impacts considered for each clause.

The document is available here.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 3) and (All Tiers) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021

This instrument amends Schedule 4 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020 (“the All Tiers Regulations”) (S.I. 2020/1374) to move all of England currently in Tiers 1, 2 or 3 into Tier 4. It also makes some amendments to the Tier 4 restrictions in order to achieve a national lockdown. This includes:

  • Removing outdoor recreation as an exception from the restrictions on leaving home.
  • Restricting takeaway and click and collect of alcohol from hospitality businesses.
  • Closing zoos, aquariums, safari parks and outdoor animal attractions, outdoor sports facilities and retail travel agents.
  • Restricting childcare (other than early years provision) and supervised activities for children to vulnerable children and children of critical workers and removing the exemption to the gatherings restrictions for parent and child groups.

It also changes the expiry date of the All Tiers Regulations to 31 March 2021.

This instrument also amends the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No.3) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020/750) (“the No.3 Regulations”) to extend these regulations by six months so that they expire on 17 July 2021 and remove the ability for a police community support officer (PCSO) to use ‘reasonable force’ in enforcing the No. 3 Regulations.

The Regulations make some changes to the Tier 4 restrictions including:

  • Removing exceptions for outdoor recreation, outdoor sports gatherings for under 18s and outdoor sports (other than for specific exceptions).
  • Permitting childcare and supervised activities to only be used for children of critical workers and vulnerable children and removing the exception for parent and child groups.
  • Closing zoos and all animal attractions, outdoor sports venues and retail travel agents.
  • Restricting the sale of alcohol by hospitality businesses for takeaway and click and collect.

Overall, the amendments are being made to ensure that appropriate levels of intervention are made in the right places to manage COVID-19 outbreaks and help suppress the virus.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2020

This instrument enables a number of public health measures to be taken to reduce the public health risks posed by the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in England which causes the disease COVID-19.

It came into force on 5 November 2020 and applies to England only.

The Regulations impose a nationwide lockdown for 28 days in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, thus easing NHS capacity and ensuring that the health system is not overwhelmed during the winter months. It is expected that, at the end of that period, the previous local alert levels introduced in October will once again be brought into force. This policy is subject to review.

The following Regulations are revoked:

  • Health Protection (Coronavirus, Local COVID-19 Alert Level) (Medium) (England) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020/1103), other than Schedule 3 to those Regulations
  • Health Protection (Coronavirus, Local COVID-19 Alert Level) (High) (England) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020/1104), other than Schedule 3 to those Regulations
  • Health Protection (Coronavirus, Local COVID-19 Alert Level) (Very High) (England) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020/1105), other than Schedule 3 to those Regulations.

The furlough scheme will be extended to run from 5 November 2020 to 2 December 2020. This provision is not covered by this instrument.

The instrument introduces a number of social restrictions and business closures.

Regulation 5 sets out a restriction on people leaving the place where they are living without reasonable excuse. Examples of reasonable excuses include the exceptions listed in Regulation 6. This does not pply to someone who is homeless.

The Regulation 6 exceptions include:

  • for necessary purposes:
    • to obtain or access supplies and/or services from businesses and services that are open for oneself, one’s household, or a vulnerable person
    • to access banking services
    • to take exercise or visit a public open place for the purposes of open air recreation
    • to attend a place of worship;
    • to attend an event commemorating Remembrance Sunday or Armistice Day
    • to undertake activities in relation to buying, renting, selling or letting property
    • to visit a member or members of a linked household (known as a ‘bubble’)
    • to collect takeaway food or goods that have been ordered for collection; or
    • to recycle or dispose of waste
  • for work, care and legal purposes
  • for the purposes of education and training
  • for emergency assistance
  • for accessing critical public services and services provided by voluntary or charitable services
  • so that elite athletes can train or compete
  • to attend to personal medical needs, or to visit those giving birth or in hospital or care
  • to give respite or support to other people, or to access it for oneself
  • to visit a relative or friend on their deathbed, including if for their wedding, or to attend their funeral
  • to look after children (for example, to take them to school, or to see their siblings, or to meet a prospective adopter)
  • to provide for the welfare of pets
  • to return home, where the person is on holiday immediately before this instrument comes into force
  • to visit a family member or friend in prison.

Gatherings of more than two people are prohibited in public outdoor places and gatherings of two or more people are prohibited in all other places, unless an exception applies. Regulation 11 sets out the exceptions to the restrictions on gatherings.

The Regulations are available here.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) (Amendment) (No. 6) Regulations 2020

Regulation 2 of these Regulations amends the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020. The amendments consist of several provisions, including to:

  • permit shops previously required to be closed (and similar premises including car dealerships and outdoor markets) to open, but note that they must comply with requirements relating to physical distancing and their customers must remain in the area local to where they are living
  • remove limitations on marriage and civil partnership ceremonies taking place, subject to physical distancing requirements
  • permit places of worship to open for private prayer
  • state that it is a reasonable excuse to leave your local area or gather indoors with other persons in order to:
    1. move house;
    2. prepare a property for someone to move in;
  • visit an estate or letting agent, developer sales office or show home in connection with the purchase, sale or rental of an unoccupied property;
  1. view an unoccupied property.

The Regulations came into force on 22 June 2020.

Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill received Royal Assent on 6 April 2020.

The purpose of the Act is to enable the Government to respond to an emergency situation and manage the effects of a covid-19 pandemic. It contains temporary measures designed to either amend existing legislative provisions or introduce new statutory powers which are designed to mitigate these impacts.

The measures set out are deemed essential to respond to this current emergency and cover a range of measures intended to ensure that:

  • renters are protected while confined to their homes
  • the justice system is able to deliver essential services
  • public services, business and consumers can still operate despite new restrictions.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Phase 3: business and physical distancing guidance

The Scottish Government stresses that all businesses must act responsibly and align fully with the physical distancing measures introduced to protect the nation’s heath, well-being and economic future.

It also stresses that remote working should remain the default position for those who can. Where that is not possible businesses and organisations are encouraged to manage travel demand through staggered start times and flexible working patterns.

All business premises, sites and attractions not required by law to close should remain closed unless:

  • essential to the health and welfare of the country during this crisis (as defined below) or
  • supporting (or being repurposed to support) essential services or
  • your business is able to open in accordance with the current position in the Scotland’s Route Map and
  • apart from in exceptional circumstances critical to lives and safety, capable of working in a way which is fully consistent with established physical distancing advice
  • every person in Scotland should continue to comply with the measures contained in: Coronavirus (COVID-19): staying safe and protecting others.

The guidance covers staying safe, businesses and premises that must remain closed, and compliance.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Phase 3: staying safe and protecting others

[Scotland]

This document details the changes being made to the Scottish Government’s Phase 3 Route Map. The guidance applies from 14 September.

In Phase 3 regulations are still in place:

  • Stopping some types of gatherings;
  • Closing certain businesses, premises and venues.

Guidance on seeing friends and family covers:

  • Meeting others indoors and outdoors;
  • Extended households;
  • Shared parenting.

No more than six people in total (from a maximum of two households) may meet at any time in the settings set out, with exceptions as explained in the guidance.

Children under 12 from the two households do not need to maintain physical distance and do not count towards the total number of people at the gathering. Adults accompanying these under 12s should maintain physical distancing from other adults not in their own household or an extended household.

The full Phase 3 document is available here.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 10) Regulations 2021

(Scotland)

These Regulations amend the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 to introduce a requirement to stay at home for those living in a Level 4 area, similar to the requirement included in legislation in March 2020. These Regulations also reduce the number of people who can meet for social purposes in Level 4. The limit is now 2 people from 2 households, rather than 6 people from 2 households. Existing socialisation rules still apply for those under 12 and the limit for 12-17 year olds has been reduced to 2 people from 2 households.

These Regulations also adjust the rules on organised outdoor activity for under 18s and for outdoor exercise in Level 4 to prohibit those aged 12 and over from undertaking such activities unless the general social gathering limit is followed.

A requirement to stay at home for those living in Level 4 areas is being introduced now to take strong and urgent action to try to mitigate the impact of the new strain. The requirement to stay at home is similar to the requirement used in legislation earlier in the year, from March onwards. There are a number of reasonable excuses to ensure the requirement to stay at home is proportionate, some examples include obtaining food or medical supplies or for work, where it is not possible for the person to do so from home. A full list is found in the legislation.

These regulations provide additional powers to allow the requirement to be enforced by police, where required.

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Public Health Information for Passengers Travelling to England) Regulations 2020 

This instrument imposes requirements on operators of commercial transport services for passengers travelling to England by sea, air or rail, from outside of the common travel area.

Operators are required to ensure information is provided to passengers about coronavirus, coronavirus disease and related duties and public health guidance to all passengers. The information must be provided to passengers before they book their travel, when they check in and whilst they are on board the vessel, aircraft or train. The aim is to allow those wishing to travel to England to make an informed choice about whether to complete their journey and increase public awareness of, and thereby compliance with, public health measures to be taken to reduce the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) which causes the disease Covid-19.

The Regulations came into force on 8 June 2020.

The Regulations require operators to keep records of the steps taken to comply with the requirement imposed by the Regulations, so that authorised persons may audit compliance. Operators may therefore be required to provide authorised persons with copies of these records, or other information necessary to determine whether they have complied.

Supports for businesses impacted by COVID-19  [Ireland]

[updated 24 July 2020]

This Guide contains detailed information on a huge range of supports from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, and other Government Departments and Agencies and advice on other practical steps businesses can take at this time.

The Guide is divided into 6 sections and also includes an Appendix which contains a COVID-19 Business Continuity Checklist which outlines some of the key risks to businesses as well as preparatory actions that can be taken to respond.

  • Part 1 highlights a number of practical steps that businesses can initially take such as talking to your bank, checking your insurance details and engaging with Revenue.
  • Part 2 sets out in detail the business supports that are available, ranging from loans to grants to vouchers to mentoring. These include the €450m Strategic Banking Corporation Ireland (SBCI) COVID-19 Working Capital Scheme, the €250m Restart Fund for Micro and Small businesses, Enterprise Ireland supports including the €2,500 Lean Business Continuity Voucher and the €5,000 Business Financial Planning Grant as well as supports from the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) like the Trading Online Voucher and the Mentor Programme.
  • Part 3 of the Guide outlines other Government supports that are available to businesses. Details are provided on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and short time work supports. In addition, links are provided to other important resources like the NSAI Workplace and Retail Protection and Improvement Guides, details on the commercial rates waiver and amendments to planning and development regulations to temporarily allow restaurants to operate as takeaways, etc.
  • Part 4 this section highlights the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, the Return to Work Safely Protocol and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) COVID-19 Templates and Checklists.
  • Part 5 provides information on the COVID-19 Rapid Response Funding Call which was developed by the Government’s research and innovation agencies to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. This Call was an agile and adaptive initiative to support development of innovative solutions (including STEM-based, social/behavioural science) that can have rapid demonstrable impact on the current COVID-19 crisis in Ireland.
  • Part 6 of the Guide highlights those websites where up-to-date official information is available.

As the COVID-19 situation changes, Government supports also change to address new difficulties and provide solutions and guidance.

Further information

The World Health Organization also has a wealth of information available; in particular ‘coronavirus myth busters’ which is a useful page of information, addressing common concerns about the virus outbreak.

[/vc_row]

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“It’s important that steps are put in place to curb anxiety and support employees to feel comfortable going back to the workplace.”

Violence and abuse against shop workers increasing

Violence and abuse against shop workers is on the rise but the perpetrators are rarely prosecuted, according to new research.

Coronavirus advice for employers

This hub page complies all the latest government coronavirus updates. It includes what you can and cannot do in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, workplace advice from multiple sources, including information on welcoming staff back to the workplace and the latest vaccination information.

It also contains a host of useful external links and resources to find further information.

coronavirus

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eddie walters
eddie walters
1 year ago

Hi. Just interested on the thoughts on reporting to the HSE if it is confirmed Coronavirus is contracted in the workplace???

Umesh Dashora
Umesh Dashora
1 year ago

is there any advise on whether healthcare professionals with underlying health conditions should avoid possibility of contact with covid patients

Sourav Basak
Sourav Basak
1 year ago

Disease control and prevention is everyone’s responsibility, and keeping yourself in good health and up-to-date on what is going on with the coronavirus is the first step to making sure no one else gets this illness. Even small steps like encouraging employees to remain at home when they’re sick can make a big difference, but the most important step is to always keep in mind that it takes everyone to reduce these risks in the end.