By David Reid, Director.
With so-called “Freedom Day” having arrived in England, resulting in most COVID-related legal restrictions being lifted from today, the UK government has published non-binding guidance on continuing to work safely as more people start to return to their normal place of work.
In its guidance, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) sets out three main principles for employers to bear in mind:
- It is no longer a legal requirement to implement social distancing in your business, workplace or venue, and customers and workers are not legally required to keep apart from people they don’t live with.
- The “work from home if possible” directive no longer applies. However, with COVID rates currently high, the government expects and recommends a gradual return to the workplace over the summer. The government recommends that businesses should discuss the timing and phasing of a return with their workers in advance.
- Perhaps most importantly, the legal duty of an employer to provide a safe system of work for its employees remains in full effect. The government advises employers to continue to follow statutory health and safety requirements, conduct a risk assessment, and take reasonable steps to manage COVID-related risks in their workplace.
The important thing to understand, therefore, is that employers have to consider the risks to individual employees of ending any arrangements allowing them to work from home, or asking them to work at their workplace with or without social distancing in place. Judgments will therefore need to be taken on a case-by-case basis on what is safe for any particular employee, taking into account that employee’s health and personal circumstances.
BEIS has published sector-specific guidance for the removal of restrictions, which you can access via the links below:
In Scotland, public health advice to work from home wherever possible remains in force. The Scottish Government has published guidance on returning to offices once Scotland moves beyond Level 0 restrictions. This is presently scheduled to happen on 9 August. You can read the guidance here:
If you have any questions about the changes to COVID restrictions, please do not hesitate to call us on 0141 331 5150.