It is currently impossible to say when and how the coronavirus lockdown will be eased. However, one Government strategy paper sets out a potential path back to work for those currently unable to do so. Of course, this has not yet been formally adopted and so should be treated with extreme caution, but any inkling as to how things might develop in the future is perhaps useful at this most extraordinary time. The main features of such a policy might be as follows:
-Employers would not be forced to maintain social distancing of two metres but encouraged to do so where possible.
- Where such social distancing would be impossible, other measures should be introduced such as screens, additional hygiene procedures and use of personal protective equipment.
-Employers would also be encouraged to stagger arrival and break times, minimise the use of equipment or office space, and avoid changing worker rotas.
-Home working would be encouraged as far as possible as it is already.
-Vulnerable workers such as those who are pregnant or over 70 would need to be placed in the ‘safest possible’ places in the workplace.
The likely approach of the government seems less one of enforcement but informal guidance. However, the approach of the HSE and local authorities will need to be watched closely. The underlying law of keeping workers and those affected by business activities safe ie doing as much as is reasonably practicable, will not change and employers will need to be very wary, not only of enforcement action, but also potential civil liability. The government approach will also have huge ramifications for the insurance market and employers will need to consider their policies and coverage very carefully.
We will keep you updated when we know more………………………