Seven rules your office must follow if staff are going back to work

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WORKERS have today been told it’s safe to go back to offices from August 1 but employers still have to ensure businesses are covid-secure before they allow people back.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has today set-out his road map for Brits to get back to near normality, including telling workers in England they can go back to offices and insisting that public transport is now safe.

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Throughout the coronavirus crisis businesses have been required by law to ensure workers aren’t put into an unsafe workplace and the health and safety of workers and visitors, and public health, should not be put at risk.

How businesses decide what measures to take depends on the nature of the company and its size, but the government has put together guidance it expects firms to follow.

Here’s what you can expect from your employer. It’s worth pointing out that this applies to England only as Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales have their own rules.

Employers need to conduct a risk assessment to look at how they can keep employees safe from covid-19.

Bosses are encouraged to share the results with staff, and should consider publishing it on their website.

The government says it expects all businesses with over 50 employees to publish the results online, although companies with fewer than five workers don’t have to write their risk assessment down.

Self-employed workers also don’t have to write down risk assessments.

Employers are expected to listen and talk to staff about how they will manage risks. 

Employers are expected to plan for the minimum number of people needed on site to operate safely and effectively.

Workplaces have been told to encourage increasing the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning.

Workplaces have been told to make every reasonable effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government.

This is currently 2meters where possible, although this dropped to 1m on July 4 where the former isn’t viable.

And Boris Johnson said today that he hoped to do away with social distancing completely by November.

Employers should also consider using screens or barriers to separate people from each other and use back-to-back or side-to-side working – rather than face-to-face – whenever possible.

Bosses are also expected to limit how many people each person works with by setting up fixed teams or partnering.

Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full, even through redesigning a particular activity, businesses should consider whether they can pause that task.

Employers have been told to ensure staff avoid raising their voices to each other.

This includes refraining from playing music or broadcasts that may encourage shouting, including if played at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult. 

The problem is that shouting can increase the risk of spreading the coronavirus – the disease is passed on through droplets, such as infected breath and spit, which is more likely to fly out of your mouth and nose when you forcefully raise your voice.

Wetherspoons, for example, won’t show any live sport in its reopened pubs this month.

If you’re pregnant or extremely vulnerable your workplace should consider allowing you to work from home.

For those who can’t work from home, your employer should consider finding you another less risky role within the company.

If it can’t do either of these, you should be allowed to remain at home on full pay.

But bear in mind that from August 1 shielding is no longer required for at-risk people so you may find it hard to argue that you can’t go into work – especially as public transport is viewed as safe from this date too.

If you have coronavirus symptoms employees are, however, expected to remain at home and to self-isolate for at least seven days.

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