Living with COVID-19 : for employers and others

08 April 2022

The threat of COVID-19 continues to present challenges across society. Making sure everyone remains safe, whilst ensuring the resilience of your organisation, remains an important consideration. Deciding how best to do this in your own particular circumstances is key, whilst understanding you will not be able to eliminate the risk that the virus presents entirely.

Two colleagues with masks on elbow bump to greet each other in a work environment

Living with COVID: getting started

You should apply the relevant government guidance [or that provided in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland] to your own particular circumstances. This information remains subject to review, so it is important to keep up to date with the latest directions. You can follow developments and access the current advice by using the resources highlighted below. In some cases, you may need to refer to more than one set of guidance.

In many cases, you will already have tried and tested arrangements in place to keep safe all those who work at, visit or use your premises. You should review these to check their adequacy in the light of any guidance published by the Government and Devolved Administrations.

It is important to remember, that any additional precautions you identify should be proportionate. This will depend on your own specific circumstances. For example, reflecting the size or type of premises you occupy, the numbers of staff you have and the nature of the work activities involved. You may also need to think about how your premises are organised, operated, managed and regulated.

With all of this in mind, here are some points you may want to consider. Some may be more relevant to you than others and the list is not exhaustive.

  • Work with your appointed person, if you have one, to help you with your health and safety obligations as well as reviewing your precautions.
  • In some cases, complete a specific risk assessment where this is a legal requirement. Also, you may choose to consider exposure to the virus as part of other health and safety risk assessments.  In doing this, you should use the guidance or other trusted information to inform your decisions about the adequacy of your existing precautions and others that might be necessary. If your work activities involve direct contact with the virus (e.g. in a research laboratory) or activities such as providing treatment for infectious patients, you may have additional responsibilities under the COSHH Regulations. These do not cover situations where: one employee catches a respiratory infection from another; or a member of the public has infected an employee with the virus through general transmission in the workplace.
  • Review other, more specific risk assessments that you have made to comply with legal obligations. An example would be your fire risk assessment. This would be in the light of any changes you have made to your premises, its layout or work activities that may have a bearing on them.
  • Make sure that you consult with staff on managing the risk from COVID-19, including any precautions to be taken. This may be through established channels you have already set up, including those required to meet any legal obligations you may have. Further guidance on consulting and involving your staff is available here.
  • Provide comprehensive information for employees, for example so that they are aware of symptoms and to maintain good hygiene practice.
  • Identify arrangements for those staff who are symptomatic, tested positive or are a close contact of someone who has tested positive so that they can follow the public health guidance.
  • Consider the needs of staff who may be at greater risk from COVID-19, including those whose immune system means they are at higher risk.
  • Consider how best to support and enable staff who wish to be vaccinated. There is a COVID-19 vaccination guide available for employers.
  • Decide if you want to make arrangements to support staff in taking up testing.
  • Ensure premises are adequately ventilated in line with the Health and Safety Executive’s guidance to meet any legal duties you may have.
  • Maintain clean premises, including any access to cleaning products, hand sanitiser and other welfare facilities to meet any legal duties you may have.
  • Determine what additional steps might be needed in the event of an outbreak amongst your staff.
  • Encourage staff to wear a face covering/mask when: coming into close contact with someone at higher risk; rates are high; in close contact with other people, such as in crowded, enclosed spaces or areas that are less well ventilated.
  • Check that your first-aid arrangements and facilities continue to be adequate through your formal assessment if you need to complete one. In the event of an accident, your existing arrangements for recording and investigating these should apply. For those more serious, you may need to report them and keep certain records. Clarification on what needs to be reported in relation to COVID-19 is available here.
  • Continue to provide any necessary training and information for staff to make sure they know how to work safely. You should keep records of any information or training you provide. These should contain detail relating to the persons who were trained (including their signatures to say that they have received and understood the training); when they were trained and by whom; an overview of the training that was provided etc.
  • Carry out any necessary periodic checks to ensure that the precautions you have taken remain effective and adequate.
  • In the event of a claim, evidence of what you have done to manage any risk may be important. As such, you should keep evidence as you apply the guidance to be able to demonstrate your decision making process and what you have done to manage the risks identified. This may include specific health and safety documents, such as risk assessments; records of maintenance, inspections and other checks; records of information and training provided; policy etc. These records should be kept in-line with your document retention policy.

Living with COVID : keeping up-to-date

You can keep up to date through these resources: