12 Aug 2021
Following the move to Alert Level Zero on 7 August 2021, there are no longer any legal limits on the number of people who can meet, including in private homes, public places or at events. In addition, all businesses may now open and employers may be looking to bring their staff back into the office, however the Welsh Government are asking those who can work from home to continue to do so as part of Wales’ overall efforts to control the spread of the virus.
Although serious illness and deaths have reduced greatly as a result of the vaccination programme and the various lockdown measures, coronavirus still poses a significant risk to public health.
With this in mind the Welsh Government has kept a small but significant set of legal requirements designed to help stop the spread of the virus and to protect the most vulnerable. Businesses and employers have a duty of care to protect their employees and customers whilst on their premises.
All businesses, employers and other organisations must undertake a coronavirus risk assessment of their premises and activities. With the move into Alert Level Zero, businesses will have more flexibility about which reasonable measures they wish to take in order to minimise the risk of coronavirus to their staff and customers. Employers should consider the different ways that COVID-19 can spread and put in place measures to reduce the risk of those occurring.
Risk assessments should be tailored to an organisations individual circumstances so it is important that employers keep in mind their own particular premises and business needs when undertaking an assessment.
Many employers would have already carried out a risk assessment and in that case, it is wise to review, and if necessary, update that in light of the latest government advice.
Failure to put in place a proper risk assessment could be considered a breach of health and safety law.
Anyone that tests positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate for 10 days. If any of your employees are a close contact of someone who has tested positive and they are not fully vaccinated then they must also self-isolate for 10 days as instructed by the Test Trace Protect system. Adults who are fully vaccinated and children and young people under 18 no longer need to isolate if they are identified as a close contact of someone with coronavirus.
If you intend to ask your employees if they have been vaccinated against coronavirus then you must be clear about your reasons for doing so. To comply with data protection obligations, you must ensure that you have a legal basis for processing such information and that it complies with the conditions for processing special category data, which relates to employees’ health under UK GDPR.
Employers should be aware that an attempt to impose a mandatory vaccination policy could risk a number of legal claims. It is important to stress that employers cannot force employees to be vaccinated against their wishes, so if an employee decided not to be vaccinated then you must be careful not to discriminate against them.
Adults and children over 12 must continue to wear face-coverings in indoor public places with the exception of hospitality settings such as restaurants, pubs or cafes.
The use of face coverings in the workplace should be considered by businesses and employers as part of the coronavirus risk assessment and an individual approach taken dependent on the type of business.
It is clear that although things are moving in the right direction, coronavirus still poses a significant risk and businesses should consider their next steps carefully. Taking time to plan and undertaking the required risk assessments will enable businesses to ensure they are working within the legal requirements set out by the Welsh Government.
Planning and open communication, consulting with the workforce, remaining flexible and addressing issues and concerns will also be vital to ensure a safe return to the workplace.
For help on putting together your COVID risk assessment or with any other aspect of employment law please contact Daniel Wilde on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01633 244233.
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