Staff management

a workplace risk more “serious and imminent” than Covid-19. This does not mean, however, that

employees can always justify non- attendance on health and safety grounds, especially if you are following official guidance and taking all reasonably practicable steps to keep people safe. If you are managing risk appropriately

but the employee maintains that they have concerns, it becomes a stalemate between an employee whose refusal is reasonable and an employer whose instruction is equally reasonable. While disciplinary action could be

taken in this scenario, this should be a last resort, not least because it will not necessarily solve the problem of staffing levels within the home. Additionally, given the pressures on care providers right now, managers will surely hope to avoid any a lengthy disciplinary procedure. With this in mind, and to maintain

employee relations at a time when it is needed most, start by exploring alternatives options, such as agreeing unpaid leave, redeploying to another department or annual leave. Of course, staff are less likely to refuse to work - or have grounds to refuse - if you are seen to be taking all necessary measures to keep people safe.

What are my duties when it comes to managing risk? The current pandemic presents an unparalleled health and safety challenge for all workplaces; however, controlling the spread of the virus is particularly difficult within residential care, where there is no little to no scope for homeworking and direct contact is part and parcel of the job.

It is important to note that health and safety legislation has not been suspended in any way, shape or form during Covid-19

That said, health and safety legislation

applies to all organisations and it is important that you comply, not only to combat resistance to work but also to fulfil your duty of care and avoid financial and reputational risk. It is important to note that health and

safety legislation has not been suspended in any way, shape or form during Covid-19. In fact, certain areas have been expanded in light of the outbreak, including the requirement to report instances of Covid-19 – in certain defined situations – under the Reportable Injuries Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR). Crucially, and perhaps most

worryingly for the care sector, the Health & Safety Executive has confirmed that it will take appropriate enforcement action which may, in the most extreme circumstances, include prosecution against employers found not to be complying with relevant Public Health England guidance. Furthermore, employees have been

reminded of the mechanism to report any “genuine concerns” to the regulator, who will then investigate and take action where necessary. With this in mind, there is a real pressure on employers to get it right – but it is not an easy challenge. Suddenly, measures that were

deemed appropriate are no longer adequate, premises that were previously thought to be low risk now have a potentially deadly virus to manage, and organisations that have never had to consider infection control as a major hazard before will now need to ensure they manage this risk.

What measures do we need to implement to achieve compliance? The first step is to complete a risk assessment and review existing policies, such as your infection control policy. Covid-19 is a biological hazard, and like any workplace hazard, control measures need to be put in place to reduce the risk of someone being infected. We would normally look to remove

Charles Spencer, principal health and safety consultant of employment consultants Ellis Whittam


Toyah Marshall, principal employment law adviser and solicitor of employment consultants Ellis Whittam

hazards where possible; however, in the case of Covid-19, it simply is not possible to eliminate risk altogether. As such, you must introduce suitable and sufficient• June 2020

©Kat Ka -

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