Sue GilchristConsiders the effect of the most recent public health guidance on Scottish businesses.
The UK government issued guidance on how to work safely during the coronavirus outbreak in England. This was reviewed by both our English and Scottish counterparts.
This guidance does not provide the specific framework for managing the return of work that many employers expected. Instead, it leaves it up to individual businesses to decide the best way to protect their workers and workplace from Covid-19. Although the Scottish government provides guidance, this general obligation applies to all employers.
The updated guidance focuses on reassessing safety and health risk assessments, taking into account all available data. However, this will not necessarily result in dramatic changes in the way employers manage a safe workplace.
Employers in Scotland are considering these issues. However, the guidance for English offices and factories recommends that employers clean more frequently and provide adequate ventilation. It also encourages them to “translate this into the specific actions they need to take”. This is against the backdrop of physical distancing and guidance regarding mask-wearing being kept here. For now, working from home is the default.
In addition to managing safety and health risks, it is important to maintain levels of mask-wearing, physical distance, etc. Employers could also be able to keep the “pingdemic” under control, which is reported not to have reached the same levels in Scotland and England.
Employers’ obligations to employees with disabilities should be addressed as part of the risk assessment. Employers have a positive responsibility to make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities. Although not all people with clinically extreme vulnerability will become disabled, employers must ensure that they are actively managing their obligations. This point is reiterated in English guidance from Covid-19 regarding the protection of people with clinically extreme vulnerability.
Some employees will be concerned, especially those who have not been vaccinated. It is important to be aware of employees’ concerns to maintain trust and minimize legal risks.
Employers must ensure that safety and health are at the forefront of their minds. However, employers who have premises in the UK need to address workplace culture issues due to different rules and guidelines. A business’ unity can be maintained by ensuring consistency and consistent messaging while adhering to the appropriate national guidance.
As we transition from lockdown to new working methods (as was the case with the move towards working remotely), “Bring the workforce with you”. Many businesses want uniformity in all of their UK facilities. This could be due to the risk assessment process. However, it also has to do with building trust in the employer’s measures, which is crucial if employers want people to return.
As we move past level 0, which is expected to be on 9 August, further guidance from the Scottish government is expected before the end July.