Covid-19….Tentative steps back to normality
Sentient Group Ltd
Info Update 2020/24                                                      Issue Date: 11/05/2020
Covid-19….Tentative steps back to normality
In response to Boris’s announcement yesterday there has been the usual fire-storm of nonsense reported from those with either a political or media agenda so we thought it would be useful to summarise the salient points. The BBC website posted a very useful table on 10th May, which we think says all that can be said right now on the exit plan and current relaxations. It was then amended on 11th May reflecting a slight change to the Governments call to the get back to work date.  We reproduce the information at the end noting the BBC as the source.

The most important point to make is that Social Distancing requirements have not changed. We still need to apply stringent controls and apply common sense. In the meantime, a few reminders from us on what this means for employers.

First thing to say is that we don’t expect that hordes of previously furloughed workers will be hammering at your doors to be let in to work. You will have notified them of the period of furlough or made it clear that you will keep in touch to let them know what their potential return date will be, or at least that they will be notified when you are able to bring them back in off furlough. And the furlough scheme in its current state is set to run until the end of June.

We knew that the time for a return to more normal working would arrive at some point and we emailed out to all our service clients at the end of April with guidance on this aspect. That information holds good. As a reminder we have furnished our clients with the following –
  • Guidance on Covid-19 infection Control and Risk Assessment suggestions.
  • Template Risk Assessment for adaptation to reflect the unique aspects or each workplace
  • Guidance on getting ready to re-open after lockdown is relaxed.
  • Generic Tool-Box talk to assist you to get the message across to workers about what is expected of them on return

We continue to update these so do keep checking on the version available on the website so you can keep your own tailored versions up to date.

Whilst we know that some clients have been able to keep operations going – albeit under great difficulty we know a great many have simply had to cease operations due to lockdown controls. Whilst the main emphasis of what we have to say in the above documents addresses the subject of what should be considered prior to and during a return from lockdown, the underlying principals do apply to all employers.

Duty of Care – the underlying principle
All employers have a duty of care to employees and other individuals who may be impacted or affected by their operations and activities. Having a documented approach with written Risk Assessments and Control Measures will be the start point in how you discharge this duty. We know that the virus is spread by coughs, sneezes and coming into contact with it on surfaces. So, your measures must address these issues.
When considering how you can re-start we suggest the following issues should be included –
  • Prepare the premises
  • Prepare the workforce
  • Communicate with your workforce
  • Address working practices and processes
  • How will you receive visitors and others coming onto site

Follow all Public Health guidelines and standards and where practicable exceed them. This might mean admitting less visitors to site and having extra staff to police social distancing, carry out cleaning, provide PPE and so on.

Make sure you place adequate and effective warnings - resources for this are free to download from Public Health England.

Despite the relevant guidance recommending to the contrary, protect your workforce from potential infection from the wider population by requiring those entering your business from elsewhere to wear masks.

We know that the question on masks is a fraught one. Two big questions such as:- Do they provide protection? If I order them will I be denying health workers access to supplies? The answer to both is a qualified ‘yes’.

A well fitted FFP3 mask will provide excellent protection from inhaling the virus. But we know from information canvassed from our clients they are very difficult to source. The HSE have confirmed that FFP2 masks are an acceptable choice provided that you also provide diligent distancing, cleaning and other control measures (reasonably practicable of course). At a lower level, simple fabric masks that cover the nose and mouth (such as surgical style masks) are reported to have little if any protection for the wearer, but they will provide some protection to others working close to the wearer by preventing ‘coughed up’ or ‘sneezed out’ globules or spray hitting surfaces or indeed others. Do check the HSE website for their up to date guidance on this. Other masks with standards applicable to other geographical areas may also be available but we suggest you check out the claims the suppliers make. Reputable manufacturers have put out good comparison information on their websites. One such being 3M. Others are available of course and whilst we do not make any recommendations or claims about 3M products the information provided is at least helpful.

Whether you are denuding supplies from health care workers is a harder one to address. Clearly, normal working must re-commence at some point and as part of your control measures masks will certainly be a significant control measure.
The BBC Website reports as follows:-
Government's first steps to ease lockdown restrictions in England
Progress based on assessment of infection rate

Step 1  This week

From Monday 11 May
  • Social distancing measures continue
  • Work from home if you can
  • Avoid public transport if possible
From Wednesday 13 May
  • People in England who "can't work from home" will be "actively encouraged to go to work" (the government had earlier indiciated this would apply Monday).
  • Avoid public transport if possible.
  • Take unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise
  • Drive to do exercise if you want
  • Play sports but only with your household
  • Enjoy parks without having to exercise

Step 2  1 June at the earliest
  • Phased reopening of shops
  • Schools could begin phased reopening
           - Process will begin with Reception, Year 1 and Year 6
           - Secondary school students with exams next year may get some time with
             teachers before summer holidays

Step 3  1 July at the earliest
  • Reopening of some of the hospitality industry
  • Reopening of public place
Source - BBC Website 10th and 11th May 2020.
The advice and comment in this update is not meant to be an authoritative statement of the law. The articles and summaries should not be applied to any specific set of facts and circumstances without seeking further advice. Whilst every care is taken to ensure that the content is correct Sentient cannot accept responsibility for the accuracy of statements made nor the result of any actions taken by individuals after reading such.
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