Following the launch of the Government’s test and trace service, it has issued COVID-19 infection control guidance for the workplace.
From today people in England will be able to meet outside with six others from different households and some children will begin to return to school. However, in order to avoid a second spike and to avoid overwhelming the NHS, the Government has issued COVID-19 infection control guidance for the workplace as part of its COVID-19 recovery strategy.
The NHS test and trace service will be a vital component of this COVID-19 recovery strategy as it will provide an early warning if COVID-19 activity increases.
The guidance issued applies to England only, as Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are taking their own measures.
Infection control guidance for employers in England
The Government’s guidance sets out how businesses and employers can support the test and trace system to help ‘slow the spread of the virus, protect the health and care system and save lives’, and highlights how it should be used in conjunction with its ‘working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)’ guidance.
Beyond its own employees, the Government reminds employers that they are also responsible for the health and safety of others who may be affected in the business, such as contract workers, agency workers, customers, and suppliers. The guidance emphasises that all employers must make the workplace as safe as possible and encourage workers to follow any notifications to self-isolate – supporting them whilst in isolation.
The NHS test and trace system will be supporting employers in this by providing tests for anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 and alerting anyone who has been in contact with someone who has tested positive. To facilitate this, anyone who receives a positive test result will be asked to share information about people have recently been in contact with.
Five steps for working safely
As part of the guidance, employers are encouraged to follow the Government’s ‘Five steps for working safely’ advice.
The five steps include:
1. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment
2. Develop cleaning, handwashing, and hygiene procedures
3. Help people to work from home
4. Maintain 2m social distancing, where possible
5. Where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk
The guidance states: ‘The measures employers put in place to maintain social distancing will depend on their individual business circumstances, including their working environment, the size of the site and the number of workers. The guidance will support employers to make an informed decision.
‘The NHS test and trace service does not change the existing guidance about working from home wherever possible.’
The guidance also reminds employers that they have a duty to ‘consult their workers, and unions where applicable, as part of their risk assessment’.
It has also issued sector specific guidance covering construction sites, factories, labs, restaurants, shops, homes, and vehicles to ensure safety guidance is followed in every setting.
The test and trace service will be supporting employers with an outbreak control team from either the local authority or Public Health England if an outbreak of COVID-19 occurs in the workplace.
Self-employed people have also been advised to continue working from home to help control the spread of the infection. If this is not possible, the Government encourages the self-employed to follow the ‘Five steps for working safely’ advice and offers further information on grant eligibility.
Self-isolation, financial help, and NHS test and trace guidance is also issued for workers. More information on the guidance can be found at www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-workplace-guidance.