It should also be noted that in Wales, the Welsh government have decided to introduce a legal duty with regard to social distancing which will apply to any workplace, including homes, where work and repairs are being undertaken and outdoor spaces. The announcement made on 23 June by the Prime Minister introducing the minimum ‘one meter plus’ requirement from 4th July 2020 only applies to England and therefore does not change anything in Wales. These regulations mean that all businesses will have to take all reasonable measures to ensure the 2 metre rule is maintained between people on their premises whenever work is being carried out.
The Welsh Government have announced that changes to the 2m physical distancing duty have come into force and have written an open letter to retailers concerning this which can be found here.
The new 2m regulation has consequences for premises, including shops. The Welsh Government has written to retailers in Wales recognising there are some occasions when it is not always possible to maintain 2m and set out additional measures businesses need to put in place to reduce the risk of coronavirus.
The guidance on this, which has been updated, also recognises that there are some workplace settings in which this distance may not be possible to maintain all of the time and in this situation, it makes clear that other measures should be considered e.g. minimising levels of interaction; physical barriers, improved hygiene, hygiene reminders, hand washing after close contact with others and ensuring those with symptoms are not present on the premises.
The Guidance confirms that all reasonable measures must be taken to maintain 2 metre distancing on premises or while anyone is working.
Next, other reasonable measures must be taken to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus. The main objective here is to reduce close face to face interaction and to enhance hygiene. These may be required in additionto maintaining physical distancing (for example though more frequent cleaning of premises) or instead of physical distancing (for example by using screens when close interaction between people is inevitable).
What other measures are reasonable required depends on the extent to which 2 metre physical distancing can be maintained. Where it can, little more is likely to be needed as long as hygiene standards are maintained. Where it can’t more will be needed. Much of what is required is an alternative to maintaining a 2 metre distance.
Finally, information should be provided about how to minimise risk of exposure to coronavirus on premises.
Enforcement where all reasonable measures have not been taken will either entail a fixed penalty of £60 (this reduces to £30 if paid within 14 days but is doubled to £120 for a second a subsequent breach) or if charged and convicted, payment of a fine. The Welsh Government also have their own advice for businesses in Wales: https://gov.wales/business-and-employers-coronavirus and additional resources can also be found here.
The Welsh Government have also produced a list of Frequently Asked Questions in relation to COVID-19 which sets out what you and businesses can and cannot do during the outbreak and what happens if you break these new laws.
The Welsh Government have produced certain sector specific guidance. The Guidance can be found here. In addition to the workplace sector guidance that can be found on the above link there is also information about guidance for a phased return to working in other sectors.
The Welsh Government have issued guidance for the tourism and hospitality business relating to phased re-opening.
The Welsh Government have also produced guidance relating to coronavirus for holiday accommodation businesses on reopening.
The Welsh Government has issued COVID-19 guidance for meat and food processing plants.
As part of their guidance for keeping ‘Wales safe at work’, the Welsh government have also introduced a 5 step key principles for workplaces in Wales, summarised below.
1. Care: Our health and well-being comes first
Everyone should approach the health, safety and well-being of each other in the workplace through this emergency with compassion and understanding. Employers should look after their employees’ psychological and physical well-being. Employers can focus on reducing sources of stress for the workforce, both in terms of health anxiety and workload issues; with clear communications and assurance on the management of coronavirus (Covid-19) risk.
For those that cannot work from home, it is important for employers to establish an initial assessment on whether it is safe for staff to work and where relevant, signpost them to appropriate support organisations.
Employers should take extra care to safeguard vulnerable employees. They should record who is vulnerable and who has received a letter requiring them to shield.
2. Comply: The laws which keep us safe must be obeyed
Employers must continue to fulfil their legal duties under new and existing health and safety laws to maintain and protect the physical and mental health, safety and welfare of their employees and customers and visitors to their premises.
Where they cannot provide a safe working environment during the current emergency, they must determine what steps are needed to create one. If the employer still cannot provide a safe working environment, they must cease operations and if necessary, furlough staff.
Employees also have a legal responsibility to their employer and each other to follow instructions concerning safe working practices.
3. Involve: We all share the responsibility for safe work
Employers are required by law to protect their employees, and others, from harm. Employees also have a duty of care of their own safety and those of others. This is a shared responsibility.
Employers should maintain regular and meaningful engagement with their employees and with the recognised trade union or, if there isn’t one, a representative chosen by workers (including their health and safety committee, if this exists) during the coronavirus emergency.
4. Adapt: We will all need to change how we work
The consultation between employers and employees will help to identify the essential hygiene protocols, equipment and measures needed to keep the workplace safe from coronavirus (Covid-19) and limit its transmission. All work places are different, but there is a growing body of industry specific guidance and examples of good practice from work places which have not closed, available to draw upon.
Taking all reasonable measures to ensure that two metres distance is kept between all people in the workplace combined with robust hygiene measures is the aim.
5. Communicate: We must all understand what to do
It is essential that there is clear, precise and constant communication between employers, employees and other visitors to the workplace, about the reasonable and proportionate actions taken regarding workplace safety. It is important that everyone gets the same message and same instruction. Employers should ensure that communications are accessible for all staff.
Employees will need assurance before their return to work to that the employer is aware of any particular needs they have. All employees will need to be confident that the safety and well-being of the workforce and visitors is a key priority.
Safety messages should be circulated regularly to all employees using an agreed method which is accessible to all. Posters and prominent visual aids and notices in the workplace will help reinforce these safety messages.
The Welsh Government have produced posters which can be found here on Safety and physical distancing for employers. These signs cover:
- Clean workspaces
- Keeping your distance
- Wearing of Face masks