THE FOCUS OF BUSINESS HAS RIGHTLY BEEN AROUND MANAGING THE RISKS OF COVID-19, COMPLYING WITH GOVERNMENT RESTRICTIONS ON BUSINESS ACTIVITY AND OBSERVING BEST PRACTICE BY REFERENCE TO CURRENT MEDICAL GUIDANCE.

Developments are awaited as to whether and if so how restrictions might be relaxed. It is however clear that any relaxation is likely to be gradual to minimise the risk of a second peak and that there may be longer term changes in working practices necessitated by the outbreak.

Addleshaw Goddard’s specialist health and safety team are well placed to assist businesses grappling with the question of how to manage this process and the risks it creates.

ISSUES  

IT IS VERY PROBABLE THAT A RETURN TO WORK WILL BE ACCOMPANIED BY MUCH GREATER USE OF PPE THAN MANY BUSINESSES WILL HAVE PREVIOUSLY USED.

This may include the use of masks and gloves either generally or for specific activities or roles. The effective use of PPE requires proper consideration and risk assessment which raises issues such as training, face fit testing and replenishment. Decisions regarding its use should be evidence based and should not be used to simply offer a false sense of security.

Returns to work are likely to still require significant social distancing measures to be implemented. Planning for a return to work should include consideration of social distancing, shared spaces, rest and food areas, and the risks associated with travel to and from work including public transport and common parts of buildings which may be the responsibility of landlords rather than the employer.

It is likely that working from home will continue to be a significant feature of work in the future, longer term working from home will require full engagement with the risks this creates by employers to avoid issues such as back and neck problems, eyesight problems and mental health issues created by poor workplace equipment and a lack of supervision.

Many employers have engaged significant additional numbers of employees to deal with the demand imposed by COVID-19 on essential services. The rapid recruitment of a large and inexperienced workforce is likely to create significant issues in the medium term. This and the risks associated with other business activities resuming must be carefully considered.

"IT IS LIKELY THAT WORKING FROM HOME WILL CONTINUE TO BE A SIGNIFICANT FEATURE OF WORK IN THE FUTURE."

HOT SPOTS

The industries most affected are those which have had to completely cease their activities and who are likely to be among the last to return to ‘business as usual’. This includes hospitality businesses such as bars, restaurants and clubs, hotels and leisure centres, and entertainment venues. All sectors and businesses are, however, affected.