Social Distancing at Work – Trust and Duty of Care
Trust is the cornerstone of many different business activities, and with the pandemic meaning businesses have had to adapt to new ways of working across the country, it has been at the centre of the government’s strategy when it comes to implementing the correct social distancing measures in workplaces to control the spread of Covid-19.
A recent survey of 1,000 UK workers from the Compensation Experts has revealed that only 37% of workers feel that their employers have taken social distancing measures seriously during the pandemic.
Unfortunately, employers failing to take social distancing measures seriously is nothing new, and many have failed to correctly implement the required practices. Not introducing the correct measures can have a notable legal and human consequence.
Well over a year of living through the pandemic, many industries and businesses are used to operating remotely, but others who cannot operate remotely have had to return to some form of normality whether that be the continued day-to-day work in general office environments, in manufacturing and on construction sites.
Considerations for employers
With regard to the responsibilities for employers regarding their duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, employers have a duty of care to reasonably keep workers and others affected by their business undertakings as safe as reasonably possible and this extends to social distancing guidelines in the workplace. Spot inspections are still being carried out by the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) and their approved partners and there is the threat of legal action if your business is found to have been deemed non-compliant with the social distancing rules.
As a business owner you have to consider if the risk of not implementing social distancing measures, is mis-placed as of the 1st of April 2021 an HSE inspector’s hourly recovery rate under Fee for Intervention in 2021/22 has been increased from £157 to £160. Which for many small businesses could seriously impact on the business recovery. Remember that this action just would not just come about if you were visited by the enforcing authorities, and that employees can and have contact the authorities protesting of their workplace concerns, which more often than not instigates a visit by the enforcing authority.
From a moral standpoint, the implementation and maintenance of your business social distancing guidelines is important, regardless of the potential legal ramifications (fines and possible closure), employees who feel like their wellbeing is being compromised will likely not perform to the best of their abilities.
If you are an employer, you have a duty of care to your employees and others effected by your business undertakings. Ensure that you are maintaining the best reasonably practicable social distancing guidelines in your workplace. This will give the correct signals of care to your employees, increasing valuable workplace trust and reducing the chances of having to deal with costly legal action in the future.
Author: Paul Jackson, Health & Safety Advisor at Howarths