• Karen Bulfin

Covid caution

This time last year we were back into a lockdown with a bleak winter ahead. A year on and lockdowns are, we hope, consigned to history, most people seem to be back in the workplace, either full time or on a hybrid basis, and life, in many respects, feels pretty much like normal. Yet not everyone is confident that this is the case and as Europe tightens its Covid rules one of the questions bubbling away in the background is should we go back to working from home?

HR Review has recently reported that the British Medical Association (BMA) has argued that working from home, the wearing of face masks and other measures contemplated in the Government’s ‘Plan B” should now become compulsory again, in light of the rising number of positive cases of Covid-19 being detected during October. The Health Secretary has, however, ruled this out “at this point”.

This divergence in approach between the country’s leading medical association and government is arguably unhelpful for employers who have been trying to implement a safe return to the workplace over the past several weeks.

Despite the government’s stance, employers still owe a duty of care to their staff, and must assess health and safety risk in the light of the prevailing conditions, including high levels of community transmission. Appropriate measures to contemplate for staff coming into the workplace may include, controversially, compulsory vaccination, mask wearing, social distancing, hand sanitation, increased ventilation, and regular lateral flow tests. A contingency plan in the event of an outbreak, and clear processes would also need to be developed and communicated to managers and staff.

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