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COVID-19 – What’s changed, what do I need to do, what do I do in the future?

Risk & Analytics|Corporate Risk Tools and Technology|Wellbeing|Motor Fleet
COVID 19 Coronavirus

By Chris Brown and Zoe Hawkins | November 18, 2020

This article provides an update on the current COVID-19 working climate.

What’s changed in the last 6 months?

On 23 March 2020, the UK went into a nation-wide lockdown in response the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, we have slowly re-opened society by following the Government’s road map (the exact timings and restrictions vary across the home nations) and have begun adjusting to the “new normal”.

For the workplace, this has resulted in some drastic changes. For example:

  • The introduction of social distancing, resulting in significantly reduced numbers in the working environment.
  • Strict controls for face-to-face meetings and workplace visitors.
  • With the help of technology, meetings, business and training have adapted and become virtual.
  • Working from home/ flexible working has become necessary for many roles, where it is possible.

However, the situation continues to remain very fluid and this bulletin aims to provide an update to the changes that have occurred.

What do I need to do now?

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Case Study

Organisations are now enhancing their control measures in respect to COVID-19. A large pharmacist has updated its COVID-19 control measures. This update includes virtual screens, enhanced PPE and improved social distancing controls, as examples.

As government measures are enhanced and adapted, so too must businesses in terms of control measures and the latest guidance.

To assist you with this, each home nation government has developed industry specific guidance1 and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)2 has provided further clarification on key issues.

As we enter winter and a second national lockdown (for England and Wales), there is a repeated emphasis from all home nation Governments regarding the importance of:

  • Handwashing – there must be suitable arrangements within the workplace; try to provide a number of locations to do this,and some guidance on how to do so. Where it is not possible to handwash, hand sanitiser should be provided.
  • Usage of face coverings – in some circumstances (for example, in hospitality), this is now mandatory.
  • Social distancing – depending on where you are located, this has been set between 2 and 1m, plus mitigation. In the workplace you must continue to observe this at all times, including whilst on breaks, in the welfare areas and meetings.
  • Supporting the NHS’s Test and Trace (known as “Test and Protect” in Scotland, or “Test, trace, protect” in Wales). Depending on your industry, you may be legally required to keep a record of everyone who visits your workplace and display the official NHS QR code posters.
  • Turning individuals (employees, visitors, contractors) away from the workplace if they are displaying coronavirus symptoms.
  • Increasing the cleaning of the workplace – in particular, surfaces which are touched most frequently for example, door handles and printer buttons.
  • Providing training to employees about the new provisions within the workplace and what is expected of them. This also extends to anyone visiting the premises for example, contractors or delivery drivers.

Those who can work effectively from home, should do so over the winter. Those who cannot work from home should go to their place of work, providing that COVID-19 secure guidelines are closely followed. This has been reaffirmed within the latest lockdown restrictions and guidance, as issued by the Government on the 31 October 20203 (applies to England). Equally, extra consideration should be given to employees at “higher risk”.

Businesses and organisations who do not make their premises COVID secure now face stricter rules, with fines of up to £10,000 for repeated breaches. Risk assessments must be updated formally as part of this process.4

What do I need to do in the future?

This is very difficult to predict and may differ across the Home Nations. Local “COVID Alert Levels” for all home nations, and nationwide lockdowns of varying lengths and restrictions have been recently been announced for England and Wales. It has been previously noted that restrictions (such as those previously published in the September 2020 update) are expected to remain in place until March 2021.

Your future planning should allow for regular reviews of your COVID-19 precautions and risk assessment. As the level of risk and infection fluctuates, you will need to continue to pay particular attention to whether the people within your workplace are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 and whether any local restrictions are in place, as dictated by your “COVID Alert Level”.

Aside from this, the pandemic has changed the way we work for the foreseeable future – if not permanently. You are advised to consider what this means for your workplace and prepare accordingly, particularly if you view them as more permanent feature for your business. Below are some examples of conceivable, sustained changes in the workplace:

  1. The end of hot desking – employees may now expect or prefer to be assigned a space or workstation, even if it is for a short period of time (to allow for spilt working patterns).
  2. Fully embracing flexible and home working – both in terms of hours and location.
  3. Adoption of health checks/ screening or thermal imaging cameras in the entrance foyer of larger office blocks to send-home anyone showing signs of ill-heath or fever – although there are doubts over the actual effectiveness of such screening technology.
  4. Increased demand for bicycle parking, showers and storage space from employees who no longer wish to use public transport or car share to travel to work.
  5. Increased interest in workplace health and safety for example, requests for easier access risk assessments, accident investigations or perhaps a request to begin a H&S Committee or focus group.
  6. Use of PPE in the workplace becoming the norm for example, face masks/ coverings, gloves, or company branded personal hygiene kits.
  7. Usage of cleaning wipes – to help keep the workplace clean and prevent the spread through contaminated surfaces, employees may need to get into the habit of wiping down their desk/office supplies on a regular basis.

Please note contacts and additional detailed guidance is also available at the links below:

https://www.willistowerswatson.com/en-gb/insights/trending-topics/covid-19-coronavirus
https://www.hse.gov.uk/news/coronavirus.htm

Disclaimer

Each applicable policy of insurance must be reviewed to determine the extent, if any, of coverage for COVID-19. Coverage may vary depending on the jurisdiction and circumstances. For global client programs it is critical to consider all local operations and how policies may or may not include COVID-19 coverage.

The information contained herein is not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice and should not be relied upon in lieu of consultation with your own legal and/or other professional advisors. Some of the information in this publication may be compiled by third party sources we consider to be reliable, however we do not guarantee and are not responsible for the accuracy of such information. We assume no duty in contract, tort, or otherwise in connection with this publication and expressly disclaim, to the fullest extent permitted by law, any liability in connection with this publication. Willis Towers Watson offers insurance-related services through its appropriately licensed entities in each jurisdiction in which it operates.

The information given in this publication is believed to be accurate at the date of publication shown at the top of this document. This information may have subsequently changed or have been superseded, and should not be relied upon to be accurate or suitable after this date.

Footnotes

1 https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19

2 https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/index.htm

3 https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-national-restrictions-from-5-november?priority-taxon=774cee22-d896-44c1-a611-e3109cce8eae

4 https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-covid-19-what-has-changed-22-september

Authors

Deputy Practice Leader | Health and Safety

Risk Management Executive

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