Earlier this week, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a series of changes to the rules surrounding COVID-19 – and while a full, nationwide lockdown seems to be off the cards, the new rules have significant ramifications for UK businesses of all sizes and across all industries.
So, what’s changed, and what do you need to do now to protect your people and your business?
Working From Home
While office workers in the UK have been encouraged to return to the office in recent weeks, the significant rise in cases means they are again being asked to work from home if at all possible.
This development is likely to have an extremely mixed response from employees. Some people were understandably reluctant to return to the office, often feeling anxious or uncertain about the perceived additional risk of both office working and commuting. Others, however, had welcomed the return as a relief from months of working from home, and were only too pleased to relinquish their makeshift desks and the distractions at home.
For these employees, the revival of remote working will be an unwelcome setback – and employers should be mindful of the inevitable impacts to mental health and morale amongst the workforce.
For those businesses that cannot adopt widespread working from home, such as the construction or manufacturing industries, creating a COVID-safe environment is no longer just recommended – it’s legally enforceable.
The government have issued 14 different guides for operating in a COVID-safe manner, with specific advice for various workplace scenarios and industries. You must be compliant with the relevant guidelines – or potentially face a financial penalty.
There are multiple actions you must now be taking to safeguard employees, so be sure to read the pertinent guidance. However, across all 14 guides, the primary objective remains consistent: to reduce the risk of the virus in the workplace, as far as possible, by taking preventative measures. This should now be the primary focus of each and every employer to ensure their people are protected, their business is compliant, and their reputation is upheld.
The specific steps you should take to prevent the spread of the virus within your organisation will vary depending on your industry, the type of sites you operate, and your location. Some steps are more obvious, and are likely to already be in place – such as providing sanitisation facilities and enforcing social distancing in the workplace.
One of the top preventative measures recommended by the government is to ensure that people who feel unwell or are exhibiting symptoms stay at home. Undoubtedly, this is the best way you can protect your employees, your customers and your business – but it’s not without its challenges.
In recent months, a stigma around being a victim of the coronavirus has emerged, and employees may be reluctant to share their diagnosis with their employers. As we enter the cold-weather seasons, in which illnesses such as colds and the common flu are more prevalent, identifying coronavirus symptoms will become increasingly complex. With some individuals potentially putting particular pressure on staff to attend work, and in a climate of widespread redundancies, some employees may not feel their potential symptoms are concrete enough to warrant an absence – or they may even feel worried about telling their employer.
It’s imperative that employees are not pressured or forced to return to work, particularly if they need to self-isolate for any reason. Even if their work cannot be carried out from home, the new government guidelines emphasise the role of employers in enabling self-isolation, with fines set to be levied at those who force staff to break self-isolation in order to attend work, or threaten anyone who self-isolates with redundancy.
In this highly complex, rapidly changing landscape, meeting the specific guidelines for your industry and locations is unlikely to be straightforward. So, what can you do to simplify your safe working protocols, while protecting your employees and your business from the virus?
While many businesses are currently checking for symptoms at building entry points, this is unlikely to be adequate. Employers are being asked to stop symptomatic employees attending the premises at all: as a result, screening needs to take place before they reach work or use public transport.
As a daily self-screening platform, Screenin.me helps employers to ensure anyone with symptoms of the virus, or who needs to self-isolate, stays at home. Using their mobile device or PC, employees are prompted to answer a few health questions before leaving for work, and are given a real-time pass/fail result – removing any doubt over whether or not they can come to work. For those who need to self-isolate, but feel pressured by their line managers to go into work, our cloud-based platform supports a confidential, secure and standardised process to uphold government guidelines.
Screenin.me allows a business to proactively monitor the health and wellbeing of the workforce, automatically identifying illness markers based on the confidential responses of employees. Entry management personnel – such as security, reception or HR – can be granted access to individuals’ live results, ensuring those who failed the test are not allowed on the premises.
Our simple, effective and affordable solution contributes to a safe working environment and helps mitigate the risk of an outbreak, while automatically generating accurate, accessible records to show compliance with government guidance and your own health and safety protocols. Screenin.me provides clarity to your operations and policies, so you can help protect your business from the risk of an outbreak, as well as the risk of regulatory scrutiny and potential legal action.
What Happens Next?
With the Prime Minister anticipating that many of the rules announced this week will be in place for six months, the legal obligation for businesses to be COVID-safe is unlikely to be lifted anytime soon. Even if you’re now returning to remote working, it’s probable that you will have to navigate these workplace guidelines once your staff are able to return to the office. Employers should be taking action now to prepare for the future and ensure they’re ready to get back to business when the time comes.
For those businesses who will remain on-site, the message is clear: make your workplaces as safe as possible for both your employees and your customers, or face the potential of financial penalties. There are many complex facets to achieving this objective, but Screenin.me can help you get on your way to a safe, compliant environment – without putting additional strain on your time, resources, or budget.
Talk to our team today about how our platform can assist your business with compliance.