FOLLOWING the prime minister’s much-discussed announcement on Sunday, in which he set out steps to restart the economy and begin the easing of 'lockdown', the government’s official guidance for businesses has been published. The advice closely follows the information revealed last week by Made in Britain and is based 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.
2. 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.
3. Maintain two metres social distancing, wherever possible
Employers should re-design workspaces to maintain two-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.
4. Where people cannot be two 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.
5. 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.
John Pearce (right), CEO of Made in Britain said, “Our members will welcome this encouragement from the government to make a start on bringing people safely back into the work environment and innovating their way into a new manufacturing normal.
“I’m certain all our members were pleased to see manufacturing alongside construction as the two priority business groups starting to safely go back to work in the coming weeks and months. We know our members are all signed up to very high standards of health and safety even before the pandemic and will be quick to adapt to the social distancing rules as applicable in factories and workshops around Britain.”
David Osborne, managing director of shower manufacturer Roman, said, "It was very useful to get the clarity on working protocols published yesterday - a very comprehensive document. It has clearly ended the popular misconception that manufacturers should not be operating due to COVID-19, which had crept into public consciousness. Manufacturers have had clear government directives to maintain operations throughout the crisis as long as it could be done safely. We maintained a level of operations as long as we could, but like many manufacturers, once our logistics partners and the vast majority of our customers were closed, we ceased manufacturing operations for a short period. Now that the construction industry is up and running again, our supply chain is systematically and sensibly restarting.
"Whilst we have been operating again for just over two weeks, we have spent a great deal of time and resource in ensuring safe working practices are in place across all departments in our business – manufacturing, distribution and administration all have different requirements and challenges. We are in regular communication with all staff and we are phasing our safe return to work carefully in line with all safety guidelines and demand. All returning employees are given full training on all changes to working practices and their working environment."
Carolyn Fairbairn (left), director-general of the CBI commented, "Safety is at the heart of business thinking. Unless people feel safe, employees won't return, customers will stay away and the restart will falter, harming livelihoods and public services. This guidance will help. It gives firms a clearer picture of how to reopen safely and gradually.
"The guidance builds on the good proactive plans many firms have developed during lockdown. Excellent employee engagement, fast workplace innovation and transparency have helped many companies support livelihoods. It’s right to build on this. The UK faces months of change and challenge. These guidelines will need to continue evolve based on insight from the ground.
"And employers, employee representatives and relevant enforcement agencies must work together, supporting these plans to build public trust and get our economy back on its feet."