Ahead of the move to Step 4 of the Roadmap on 19 July, the Government has published guidance for businesses on working safely during COVID-19 and reducing the risk in workplaces.

The following guidance has been published:

From Step 4, legal restrictions are lifted, all businesses can open and the government is no longer instructing people to work from home.

The overview guidance states: “To support businesses through this next phase, the ‘Working Safely’ guidance will continue to provide advice on sensible precautions employers can take to manage risk and support their staff and customers.

Businesses 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.

You should use the guidance to consider the risk within your premises and decide which mitigations are appropriate to adopt”.

The priority actions identified in the guidance are as follows:

  1. Complete a health and safety risk assessment that includes the risk from COVID-19 (including considering reasonable adjustments needed for staff and customers with disabilities);
  2. Provide adequate ventilation;
  3. Clean more often;
  4. Turn away people with COVID-19 symptoms. If you know that a worker is self-isolating, you must not allow them to come to work. It will remain an offence to do this;
  5. Enable people to check in at your venue;
  6. Communicate and train.

The guidance contains the following additional specific recommendations in respect of existing risk mitigation measures:

Working from home: the government expects and recommends a gradual return over the summer. Employers should discuss the timing and phasing of a return with your workers.

Social distancing: employers do not need to implement social distancing in the workplace. However, employers should reduce the number of people workers come into contact with.

Employees at higher risk from COVID-19: employers should give extra consideration to people at higher risk and to workers facing mental and physical health difficulties. Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable are no longer advised to shield. Employers should continue to support these workers by discussing with them their individual needs and supporting them in taking any additional precautions advised by their clinicians.

Face coverings: Face coverings are no longer required by law. However, the government expects and recommends that people continue to wear face coverings in crowded, enclosed spaces. Consider encouraging the use of face coverings by workers (for example through signage), particularly in indoor areas. This is especially important in enclosed and crowded spaces. When deciding whether you will ask workers or customers to wear a face covering, you would need to consider the reasonable adjustments needed for staff and clients with disabilities.

Testing: Anyone with symptoms can get a free NHS test. Employees who do not have symptoms of COVID-19 can access testing free of charge at home or at a test site.

There is no specific guidance here regarding vaccination. The COVID-19 vaccination guide for employers urges employers to encourage employees to have the vaccine.

The guidance applies in England only.

As predicted, the guidance shifts much of the responsibility for health and safety measures from the government to individuals and businesses; employers’ individual health and safety risk assessments will be critical in addition to communication and consultation with the workforce.