Questions and answers based on guidance updated on 30 March 2021

What do employers need to do before staff return to the workplace?

1) All employers should ensure that they have carried out a Covid risk assessment similar to the one here: Example Workplace Risk Assessment

2) Ensure your workplace is Covid-secure by viewing and implementing the relevant guidance. Here is the guidance for those working in offices which was last updated on 30 March 2021. This guidance includes putting in place the following:

a. Applying controls strictly to protect all staff, including more vulnerable staff such as those from certain ethnic minority groups, older men, those with diabetes and pregnant women

b. Adequate ventilation – advice on this is available here

c. Staggered arrival and departure times at work to avoid congestion

d. Encouraging people not to use public transport to travel to work by providing additional parking and/or bike racks

e. Reducing occupancy for lifts

f. Assigning individual (not shared) workstations

g. Ensuring 2m social distancing between work areas where possible

h. Managing occupancy levels to enable social distancing

i. Providing handwashing facilities (and hand sanitiser where this isn’t possible) at entry and exit points

j. Limit visitors to the workplace

k. Ensuring a clear and robust cleaning regime is in place

l. Providing signs and posters to encourage compliance with guidance

m. Displaying and complying with the COVID-19 secure poster.

3) Consult with staff to determine who needs to go to the workplace and the impact of travelling to and from work depending on the mode of transport used. A mix of home and office-based working should be implemented where full home working is not possible. Ensure that suitable arrangements are put in place for each member of staff.

Do employers need to provide staff with PPE or face masks?

Employers only need to provide staff with PPE if the Covid risk in the workplace is very high.  If your risk assessment concludes that you should provide PPE, then you must do so free of charge and ensure that any PPE provided fits properly.  Face coverings should be worn where staff are customer facing.  If this is the case, employers should inform staff of the guidance relating to use of face coverings.

Who needs to have a PCR Covid test?

Anyone with Covid symptoms or anyone who has been in contact with someone with Covid symptoms should get a free PCR test and self-isolate at home for 10 full days following any symptoms or a positive test result.  Staff should continue to self-isolate if symptoms appear or if they don’t go away.  Details of who should self-isolate are here

You can visit to find out where you can get a PCR test.

Employers must not allow staff to attend the workplace if they should be self-isolating.

Do all staff need to undergo Covid testing?

The government is encouraging all staff to have rapid lateral flow tests twice a week.  Employers with less than 50 employees can ask staff to book tests at a test at a Covid testing centre or to collect tests from collection points to test at home.  Information on where to find test centres or collection points can be found on the website for the local authority where the employer’s office is situated.

Can employers refuse to allow someone to attend the workplace if they have not had, or refuse to have, a vaccination?

A number of employers are insisting that their staff get vaccinated when they are eligible to do so and that all new staff are vaccinated before joining the workforce.  There is a risk of successful tribunal claims in requiring staff to be vaccinated, particularly where the work does not involve close contact with members of the public.  Requiring staff to be vaccinated would therefore be a risky strategy for most employers.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us at Harmony HR Solutions