Today, Cloisters has released version 3 of its Toolkit: Returning to work in the Time of Coronavirus, a comprehensive guide taking into account the latest government guidance on workplaces, travel to work and the furlough scheme.

Readers will recall that, on 11th May 2020, the Government issued eight separate guides aimed at specific sectors or workplaces.

On 19th May 2020, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy issued “5 Steps to Working Safely” – practical actions for business to take based on 5 main steps, whatever the workplace or sector. These are:

  • Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment
  • Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures
  • Help people to work from home
  • Maintain 2m social distancing, where possible
  • Where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk.

Then, on 25th May 2020 (why does the Government like to issue Guidance at the weekend, this time on a bank holiday Monday?), it updated its “Working Safely” guide for shops and branches in order to reflect industry feedback and include non-essential retail categories ahead of their planned opening. Presumably, this is in line with yesterday evening’s announcement by the Prime Minister that non-essential retail stores could re-open on 15th June 2020, so long as they are “Covid-secure”.

The key changes in the updated “shops and branches” guide, which are reflected in version 3 of the Cloisters’ guide, are:

  • It is now expressly stated to apply both to those retail stores which are currently open and to “help” those that are currently closed to consider what their operations need to look like when they are allowed to open.
  • Stores are reminded to consider the particular needs of those with protected characteristics, such as those who are visually impaired (particularly in relation to communicating guidance inside and outside the store).
  • There is a specific reminder to review incident and emergency procedures to reflect social distancing principles as far as possible.
  • A number of additional steps that will “usually be needed” have been added to section 4.1 (Manage Contacts) including:
  • Encouraging customers to use hand sanitiser or handwashing facilities as they enter the premises; and to avoid handling products whilst browsing;
  • Working with others in the local vicinity (including local authorities) to control the number of people arising throughout the day; and to provide additional parking or facilities such as bike-racks to discourage use of public transport;
  • Managing outside queues to ensure they do not cause a risk to others;
  • Emphasising that shopping centres must take the responsibility for managing numbers in the centre and the queuing processes in communal areas on behalf of their retail tenants.
  • A presumption is now included that fitting rooms should be closed wherever possible given the challenges in operating them safely.
  • A number of additional necessary steps have been added to section 5.5 (Handling goods, merchandise and other materials), including:
  • Storing items that have been returned, donated, brought in for repair or extensively handled in a container or separate room for 72 hours and/or cleaning such items before displaying them on the shop floor.
  • Considering placing protective coverings on large items that may require customer testing or use, such as furniture; and ensuring frequent cleaning of these coverings between uses.
  • Cleaning “touchpoints” (eg, interior and exterior touchpoints in rental vehicles and/or test drive vehicles)

As with other guidance, the updated guide for shops and branches is intended to provide an overview of the sorts of questions operational managers ought to be asking themselves when assessing risk and implementing measures to mitigate those risks, both for their workers and their customers/clients.

Employers are reminded that the obligation to ensure a safe workplace rests on them alone and that particular duties may be owed to certain workers, such as pregnant workers and new mothers (including the need to suspend on full pay if alternative safe working duties cannot be found for them) and those with disabilities.

As always, specific advice should be commissioned for specific situations.  If you do need tailored advice or representation then please contact the skilled clerking team at Cloisters on 02078274000 or clerks@cloisters.com and they will be able to put you in touch with one of the team with the skills that you need.