Keeping the office safe during coronavirus (COVID-19) – the legal considerations

As the Government eases the national lockdown, shops, businesses and workplaces are putting steps in place to ensure their working environments are safe, minimise risks and maintain the wellbeing of staff. In the fintech arena, such are the benefits of modern technology that a large proportion of companies will continue to allow their staff to work from home.

However, for those that are unable to do so, they should now be in the final stages of reviewing the workplaces procedures and implementing stringent health and safety rules. Despite the unprecedented circumstances many start-ups and business find themselves in, it does not exempt employers for failing to adhere to their statutory duties as established in law, and owed to employees who are protected under statue.

In addition to following the government’s guidance on facilitating a safe return to work, employers can take a series of additional steps to enable a safe return to work.

Regular risk assessments

All employers should conduct risk assessments at regular intervals to identify and minimise any health and safety concerns at work. This can also include identifying at-risk individuals and groups within the workplace (e.g. vulnerable and high-risk employees) and reviewing remote working policies to tackle any potential risks an employee may face when working from home.

Maintain an audit and share your findings

An employer with more than five employees must write down any significant findings arising from a risk assessment. The government encourages employees to publish results of their risk assessments on their websites. This is expected of all employers with more than 50 employees.

Consult your employees

Where employees are not represented by a union safety representative, employers are required, by law, to consult employees or their appointed representatives about health and safety concerns. Any effective risk assessment will be incomplete without considering the state of mind and concerns of employees. Put simply, it would be a criminal offence not to comply with this requirement!

Are your visitors safe? 

Employers should consider any health and safety issues concerning visitors, contractors and clients who are attending the workplace to avoid being held liable beyond the remit of their duties as established under employment legislation. Employers should also be mindful of external factors such as vulnerable and high-risk family members of employees.

Shaheen Mamun is Co-Founder and Director at Black Antelope Law.