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Suffolk firm advises companies to protect staff post-lockdown

As the country experiences life without coronavirus restrictions, a Suffolk law firm is advising companies not to be complacent with their employees’ health.

Monday, July 19, which was referred to as ‘Freedom Day’, marked Stage 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown set out by the Prime Minister in February.

While many people might see it as a breath of mask-free air, for others it is a cause for anxiety, especially those who work in busy environments.

Louise Plant of Prettys
Louise Plant at Prettys

Louise Plant, Senior Associate, from the Ipswich-based solicitors Prettys, said: “Employees are at the heart of every business, so it is only right their health is looked after and their concerns are respected.

“Many people may not feel comfortable with the lifting of restrictions, and this should not be overlooked.

“All businesses should have an existing Covid-19 risk assessment in place, so it is important to review it and adapt it, if necessary, to accommodate any changes.”

In light of this stage of the easing of restrictions, the Government guidance is recommending that workplaces focus on providing adequate ventilation to indoor areas, undertake regular cleaning, reduce social contact where possible still, and to encourage staff and visitors to wear face coverings in crowded spaces.

Anyone who has tested positive for Covid-19 or been in close contact with someone who has, must still, except where exempted, self-isolate. Employers can still be fined if they allow or request staff to attend the workplace when they should be self-isolating.

The Ipswich-based firm is encouraging companies to liaise with their employees about their individual needs for returning to the workplace, to ensure they feel comfortable.

Louise added: “It is crucial that employers take on board their staff members’ views before deciding what works best for the workplace going forward. For many people, especially vulnerable individuals, removing safety practices and procedures overnight could cause increased anxiety.”

If a company’s risk assessment is being amended, employers should communicate any changes being made and take feedback on board.

The practices and procedures in place should be monitored and companies must keep on top of Government guidance and updates.

As we are into holiday season, it is important to know what must be considered. The need to self-isolate after returning from overseas depends on the destination. People who return from amber listed countries do not have to self-isolate if they have had both doses of the coronavirus vaccination.

If an employee can work from home, the need to self-isolate will not be an issue. However, if they cannot, an agreement on what type of leave to use should be made. This can include extra paid holiday, unpaid leave, or another type the company offers.

New legislation was introduced in March 2020 meaning workers can carry holiday forward to the following year if coronavirus has prevented them from taking leave. Employers must give workers the opportunity to take any holiday that cannot be carried forward before the end of the current year.

Furloughed staff members continue to accrue holiday and, if they take annual leave while on holiday, they must receive full pay. Employers can still claim the 80% grant from the Government to cover most of the holiday pay.

Deciding what is best for your workplace and employees continues to be a hard balance to strike. Any businesses requiring assistance in light of the Governments recommendations and how they should be applied to the workplace, contact us at www.prettys.co.uk.

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