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Employers and employees advice - COVID-19

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This page was updated on the 19 July 2021

The Government has decided to move to step 4 of the roadmap. The pandemic is not over. Cases are increasing rapidly and a third wave is underway. Step 4 does not mark the end of the need for caution and restraint.It is important to remember the pandemic is not over. Cases are currently rising, as are hospitalisations. Cases, hospitalisations and, sadly, deaths, will rise further as society and the economy reopen. Lifting Coronavirus restrictions does not mean that the risks from COVID-19 have disappeared. Vigilance must be maintained and people will be asked to make informed decisions and act carefully and proportionately, to manage the risks to themselves and others. For more information see HM Government COVID-19 Response Summer 2021

Carrying out risk assessments

Businesses still have a legal duty to manage risks to those affected by their business. The way to do this is to carry out a health and safety risk assessment, including the risk of COVID-19, and to take reasonable steps to mitigate the risks you identify. Many control measures that have been in place previously were there due to health and safety legislation rather than the specific coronavirus legislation. It remains very important to implement suitable control measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 between employees and members of the public.

When undertaking your risk assessment you must have regard to the available guidance. Following the guidance is not compulsory, unless specifically stated, and you are free to take other action, so long as the same level of protection is achieved. But if you do follow the guidance you will normally be doing enough to comply with the law. Health and safety inspectors seek to secure compliance with the law and may refer to guidance. Failure to implement suitable control measures may lead to formal action being taken against the duty holder(s). See www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus for more information on COVID-19 risk assessments.

It is also important to remember that your risk assessment and subsequent controls will be influenced by the prevalence of COVID-19 in the general population of Preston, the numbers of people in Preston who have received their vaccine and the demographics of your customers (Age, general health etc). When the prevalence of COVID-19 in the general population is considered high then businesses will be expected to implement stricter control measures. When the prevalence of COVID-19 is lower in the general population then fewer or less strict control measures maybe acceptable.

Currently the prevalence of COVID-19 in population of Preston and Lancashire is very high and businesses will be expected to have more and stricter control measures.

I'm concerned that the control measures in my workplace are not adequate, what can be done?

Preston City Council's Environmental Health Department have powers to investigate, advise and, if necessary, take formal enforcement action, against businesses that are not implementing suitable control measures.

You can report business you think is breaking the law by using the button below

Report a coronavirus issue form

Please visit our Covid-19 compliance in business webpages to see enforcement actions taken by Environmental Health.

What should Employers do to prevent the spread of Coronavirus?

1. Undertake a Risk Assessment.

As an employer, you must protect people from harm. This includes doing a risk assessment to decide what reasonable steps you need to take to protect your workers and others from coronavirus (COVID-19). A generic risk assessment is unlikely to be specific or detailed enough. For example, it might not identify adequate ventilation requirements or sufficient cleaning controls for particular areas and circumstances

  • Of particular importance is:
    • Asking staff and customers to clean their hands regularly;
    • Cleaning surfaces that people touch regularly;
    • Reducing unnecessary contact in the workplace, where it is practical. This means ensuring different groups of customers remain separate and keeping employees working in bubbles etc;
    • Ensuring that all indoor spaces are well ventilated (ensuring windows and doors are opened) and utilising outdoor space where practical.

The Health and Safety Executive have published two guidance leaflets Working Safely During the Coronavirus Outbreak and Talking with your Workers about Preventing Coronavirus which are very useful and should be read in conjunction with the rest of the information on this page.

You should share the results of your risk assessment with your workforce. If possible, you should consider publishing the results on your website (and we would expect all businesses with over 50 workers to do so).

2. Prevent Staff or Customers who are unwell from entering the premises.

Ensure you display suitable information at all entrance to your premises Icon for pdf Poster - Covid Secure Premises [624.52KB]

Someone at my workplace is unwell

  • If anyone becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature in the business or workplace they should be sent home and advised to follow the GOV.UK - Covid-19 Stay at home guidance.
  • If they need clinical advice, they should go online to NHS 111 or call 111 if they don't have Internet access. In an emergency, call 999 if they are seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk. Do not visit the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre or a hospital.
  • If a member of staff has helped someone who was taken unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, they do not need to go home unless they develop symptoms themselves. They should wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds after any contact with someone who is unwell with symptoms consistent with coronavirus infection.
  • It is not necessary to close the business or workplace or send any staff home, unless government policy changes. Keep monitoring the GOV.UK - Covid-19 UK Government response page for the latest details

Someone at my workplace has had a confirmed case of coronavirus, what should happen?

  • There is no need to close the workplace, thorough cleaning should occur.
  • Ensure that any workstation or areas in which the employee has spent time has been thoroughly cleaned.
  • There is no need to thoroughly clean the entire premises or communal areas such as corridors through which the person may have passed.
  • Follow the directions on GOV.UK - Covid-19 Decontamination in non-healthcare-setting

What is considered an outbreak?

If you have 2 or more members of staff that test positive within 2 weeks of each other then this is considered an outbreak, please contact the Environmental Health Team as soon as possible. We will require details of the persons who have tested positive and will ask you about your Covid control measures, you may even be visited by an Environmental Health Officer.

Will my businesses be closed?

It is not typical that businesses are asked to close, it is our aim to help you to minimise disruption to your business and ensure that you can keep trading safely. If too many members of staff contract Covid-19 or are required to isolate as a close contact then your business may close due to lack of staff. If the business continuously suffers from on-going positive cases of Covid-19 then it is possible that your business will be closed to break the chain of infections, but this would be considered as a last resort.

Icon for pdf Workplace Testing, Outbreaks and Vaccination: Hospitality [487.33KB]

Lancashire County Council have produced a guidance document for dealing with suspected or confirmed cases and outbreaks in workplaces:

LCC Covid Outbreak Resource Pack for Workplaces

3. Ensure all employees take regular RAPID COVID-19 Tests.

Around 1 in 3 people who are infected with COVID-19 have no symptoms so could be spreading the disease without knowing it. Rapid or Lateral flow testing is a fast and simple way to test people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19, but who may still be spreading the virus. The best-known example of a lateral flow test is the home pregnancy test kit. The tests are easy to use and give results in less than 30 minutes. Lateral flow devices do not require a laboratory to process the test. They are designed to be intuitive and require minimal training to operate.

Those who test positive must immediately self-isolate to avoid passing the virus on to others. Anyone in Preston who tests positive using a Lateral Flow Test should book to have a PCR test as soon as possible. 

We would ask that you display these posters in staff rooms, toilets and seating areas to encourage staff and members of the public to regularly test. Icon for pdf Protect This Business Test Regularly [570.05KB]  Icon for pdf Protect Each Other Test Regularly [564.75KB]

 4. Encourage all Employees to get vaccinated 

Vaccines remain the best way to protect ourselves and those around us from the virus. It is important that everyone gets vaccinated as soon as they are able and gets both doses of the vaccine. Encourage all staff to take up the offer of a vaccine when they are contacted, or ask them to visit the web link to book on-line.  By having the vaccine staff are protecting themselves, their work colleagues, their jobs, their community and their loved ones. We would urge employees to be flexible and allow employees to attend for a vaccine during working hours, if possible. 

A number of walk-in clinics are available in Preston offering residents vaccines, including the St John's shopping centre open Monday to Sunday 8am - 8pm, no appointment necessary! 

Please display our vaccination poster to encourage staff and customers to take up the offer of a vaccine. Icon for pdf Every Covid 19 Vaccination helps protect you and your family [709.5KB]

Frequently Asked Questions

Do employers need to make a RIDDOR report if employees have COVID?

You must only make a report under RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) when: 

  • an unintended incident at work has led to someone's possible or actual exposure to coronavirus. This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence.
  • a worker has been diagnosed as having Covid-19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This must be reported as a case of disease.
  • a worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to coronavirus

For further information on Covid-19 and RIDDOR, or to make a RIDDOR report got to the HSE's website RIDDOR Reporting of COVID-19.

Do the public or employees need to wear a face covering in my business?

There is no longer any legal requirements upon on employees or customers to wear face coverings in any premises. However the government expects that employees and customers will still need to wear face coverings in certain situations such as crowded in door spaces.  Click the link below for more information. Icon for pdf Poster - No Face Covering, No Entry [542.96KB]

Face Covering Requirements

My workplace handles cash, what can be done?

There is no law to prevent workplaces from accepting cash transactions. However the virus can be transmitted on cash. Therefore employees are at risk if handling cash when they are taking orders and cashing up at the end of the night. If employees catch the virus you maybe forced to close the business (because everyone is sick or isolating), especially in small businesses.

We would strongly recommend setting up a contactless payment system. There are systems such as iZettle, sum up, or square reader (other brands are also available). These are usually relatively cheap to set up and run.

We would urge businesses to encourage contactless payment whenever possible Icon for pdf Contactless Payment: Poster [588.19KB]

What employee training do workplaces need to offer?

You will need to ensure that all employees are given suitable and sufficient training in the new Covid-19 control measures that you are implementing within your workplace. 

There are free on-line training courses available to help you educate your employees on the basics and background to Covid-19 many can be found using a Google search.

Where can I go for advice on employer and employee relations?

Please visit our pages on Your Safety at Work.

Where can I get Sector Specific Guidance?

The government, in consultation with industry, has produced guidance to help ensure workplaces are as safe as possible, this is the HM Government Guidance.  When undertaking your risk assessment you must have regard to the available guidance.

Following the guidance is not compulsory, unless specifically stated, and you are free to take other action, so long as the same level of protection is achieved.  But if you do follow the guidance you will normally be doing enough to comply with the law. Health and safety inspectors seek to secure compliance with the law and may refer to guidance. Failure to implement suitable control measure may lead to formal action being taken against the duty holder(s).

These guides cover a range of different types of work. Many businesses operate more than one type of workplace, such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles. You may need to use more than one of these guides as you think through what you need to do to keep people safe;

Displaying information

Ensure sufficient signage is displayed so customers and employees understand the rules in place within your premises.

As a minimum we would expect to see the following information displayed within premises;

Links to Guidance

The Environmental Health Department is committed to helping both employers and employees during the Covid-19 emergency. We would urge employers to take socially responsible decisions and listen to the concerns of their workforce. We ask that all employees work with their employers to create and maintain a safe working environment for everyone.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for advice or information. You can contact us on 01772 906907 or email info@preston.gov.uk.

Reopening Workplaces after the Closure Period

Before you re-open your business you need to consider how to do it safely.

Your safety at work

Guidance on helping protect your health and safety at work.

Face Coverings

A guide to the face covering requirements.

Close Contact Services

Information on the control measures that businesses classed as close contact services must implement.

Shops and Branches

Guidance and resources for those businesses in the retail industry.

Takeaway Food

Information and guidance for food businesses offering takeaway food.

Places of Worship Covid 19 Guidance

Guidance and restrictions on the use of places of worship.

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