The 3 Tiers: A summary of your business position for each

You will be very aware that the UK Government has now implemented a three tier system in order to control the spread of Coronavirus at a time where the number of infections and hospital cases are increasing. This has undoubtably caused confusion as nothing seems to be straightforward at the moment! Happily though, the picture for businesses largely remains unchanged for the majority of cases. We thought it would be useful, therefore, to just summarise the business position for each of the three tiers:

 

  • Tier 1 – Medium Risk – If employees can work from home then they should do so. If work cannot be undertaken at home then employers must provide a Covid Secure workplace. Pubs, bars and restaurants must close at 10pm and groups must be limited to 6 or less.
  • Tier 2 – High Risk – If employees can work from home then they should do so. If work cannot be undertaken at home then employers must provide a Covid Secure workplace. Pubs, bars and restaurants must close at 10pm and groups indoors must not mix with anyone from outside of their household or support bubble. Groups outdoors can be from multiple households but are limited to groups of 6.
  • Tier 3 – Very High Risk – If employees can work from home then they should do so. If work cannot be undertaken at home then employers must provide a Covid Secure workplace. Pubs and bars must close from today (Wednesday 14th October) unless they are serving substantial meals, such as a main lunchtime meal or evening meal. Alcohol may only be served as part of a meal. Groups indoors and outdoors must not mix with anyone from outside of their household or support bubble. In addition, casinos, betting shops and adult gaming centres will also be closed along with indoor gyms, fitness and dance studios and sports facilities (with an exemption for organised indoor team sports for disabled people and children’s activities).

 

 

As you can see for the majority of UK businesses, there are no changes from the current guidance. What is important, however, is that you ensure that your workplace is Covid Secure. This means that you:

 

  • Ensure that Social Distancing is in place and enforced. 2m separation should be the norm, however if this is not practicable then 1m+ can be used. This means that facial coverings must be worn at all times when 2m separation cannot be guaranteed. You need to consider the use of one way systems to minimise close contact during entry and exit from the building.
  • Cleaning, hygiene and handwashing should be increased. You will need to increase the frequency of cleaning of high contact areas (door handles, light switches, kitchen areas, toilets etc.). Handwashing facilities including running hot water and soap.
  • Provide information to your employees. Ensure that you have the Covid Secure poster displayed for your employees and visitors to see. There are a number of free posters from Public Health England that can be used to provide information throughout your workplace. Also make sure that they fully understand any adjustments that you need them to make in order to ensure that the workplace is safe.
  • Risk assessment – make sure that you have a Covid-19 risk assessment and that this is amended regularly to ensure that it is up to date.

 

All business should ensure that they are also complying with their sector specific advice. If you need specific advice for your situation, please do not hesitate to contact our Risk or HR consultants who are here to assist you in these difficult times. Call 01302 341 344.

What is ‘normal’ anyway?

In psychology and psychiatry, normal means average or typical, but we too easily think of it as a synonym for how everyone is supposed to think and feel.

Today marks day 141 of the new ‘normal’ and we all think and feel very differently about the world than we did a few months ago.  In this uncertain world, one thing I am certain of is that no-one would have thought in March that ‘lockdown’ restrictions would still be dictating the way we live our lives in October! With the ever-increasing growth in social media conspiracy theories, the regular news updates and the general chatter amongst friends, families and colleagues, we may be struggling to see light at the end of the tunnel.

Changes can be challenging for any business and at ProAktive we are here to help you embark on this journey and hold your hand through the process – metaphorically speaking, of course. Please keep your distance!

Given businesses are now being encouraged (again) to allow staff to work remotely where possible, here is a summary of the key points you will need to consider to ensure your policies are still protecting your business and you are protecting your staff.

Office:

  • Are your premises now unoccupied for periods of time?  If the circumstances have changed surrounding the occupancy of your workplace, whether this is in terms of business hours or previous tenants ceasing to trade, please notify your broker/insurer immediately.

 

Computer Equipment:

  • Are staff now taking home computers and other office equipment to continue their roles remotely? If equipment is no longer located within the premises, please also notify your broker to ensure your policy is extended to provide ‘All Risk’ cover.

 

Cyber risk:

  • Are you covered for a cyberattack? Such attacks are on the rise, making it more difficult for businesses to operate safely since many have moved to remote working.

 

Legal liabilities:

  • Are staff now working alone to comply with social distancing guidelines? With reduced supervision and changes to working procedures, insurers expect to see a rise in manual handling claims.
  • It is important to ensure your staff still appropriately trained and have the correct skills and knowledge to complete the tasks at hand.

 

If you would like further advice or wish to talk to us about any area of commercial insurance and/or risk management, please contact us on 01302 341 344 or 0114 243 9914.

By Beth Johnson Cert CII – Commercial Account Handler

Fire safety during Covid-19

We are now seven months into the pandemic and most of you are beginning to navigate your way through the barrage of information and apply controls to reduce the risk in the present situation.

Some of the circumstances that we have observed, of how covid-19 controls are being applied to fire safety would benefit from a review of their suitability.

These include

  • Does fire safety law apply in the current Covid-19 situation?

Yes, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 still applies and we are required to ensure the risk from fire is identified and suitable measures are implemented.

It is essential that Fire Risk Assessments are undertaken or reviewed where there are significant changes in ways of working or processes. These may include reduced or increased staff numbers, parts of the premises being closed and greater material storage.

  • Fire doors taped or wedged open to prevent transmission

There is a real possibility that some organisations are putting persons at risk from fire and may experience the whole of their building being destroyed through this practice. The instruction from the National Fire Chiefs Council, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue as with other FRS is Do not wedge open fire doors.

 

We know people are worried the virus may be transmitted via surfaces that are regularly touched such as door handles. We cannot stress enough how important it is to NOT wedge open fire doors. We ask you to focus on cleaning door handles/ push plates regularly or, if your premises are equipped with automatic fire alarm systems, suitable hold open devices that release on activation of the fire alarm. Fire doors are a very important part of protecting people within a premises.

Note that Government guidance does for specific sectors, for examples SCHOOLS, permit the practice of wedging open doors (unless fire doors) to maintain and increase the supply of fresh air to reduce transmission.

  • No fire safety trained staff in attendance due to home working and self isolation

It is the Owner’s / Employers / Person In Control of the Premises responsibility to ensure there are sufficiently trained staff to assist them in managing fire safety.

It is important that all persons who may be working at the premises are given fire safety training relevant to their role, responsibilities and needs in event of fire. You should review the current level of training against each individual and update where required – this is essential for any occupants who may not be familiar with your premises.

Employers should continue to undertake and review their Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) for their staff. This is particularly crucial in the care industry where residents may rely on staff to instigate evacuation measures.

 

In any case, procedures should be reviewed so that they accurately reflect the staff available. Such reviews must carefully weigh the risks from fire and the ability of such businesses to operate safely.

You also need to ensure all persons are familiar with evacuation procedures and any role they are required to carry out during an evacuation.

  • Large stocks of hand sanitiser with large alcohol contents

Hand sanitiser has become a very popular – and very necessary – hand hygiene product, preventing the spread of germs and harmful bacteria. It is now widely used in many settings and lots of people even carry hand sanitiser with them so they can keep their hands clean, particularly when they don’t have access to soap and water

Whilst Fire chiefs have debunked the myth that hand sanitiser can catch fire in hot cars, most hand sanitiser products contain a high volume of alcohol (60-95%) concentration

But the necessarily high alcohol content of hand sanitiser products also means you should be aware of its potential as a fire hazard. Typically the manufacturers of some hand sanitisers state that they have a flash point around 190C classifying them as highly flammable or in the 200C’s classifying them as flammable liquids.

Hand sanitisers should be stored as per highly flammable / flammable liquids. Check the manufacturers information (MSDS).

Need help?

If you have a specific question about fire safety within your premises during Covid-19 contact ProAktive or your Local Authority Legislative Officers. All of us will be happy to help you.

By Ian French CMIOSHRisk Consultant

Does your HR documentation support your business?

2020 has been an interesting year so far, full of uncertainty and is likely to remain unpredictable as we continue towards 2021.

Now more than ever, it’s important to ensure your HR documentation supports the decisions you make and provides protection from the pitfalls that can often be associated in times of change.

Contracts of Employment

As of April 2020, it is a legal requirement to supply every new ‘worker’ with a detailed written statement of particulars (often captured in a Contract of Employment) on their first day of work.

Not only is this a legal requirement but often it is the contractual agreement you have in place which governs how changes to the way you work are dealt with.

Employee Handbook

Your Employee Handbook is the document which sets out the policies and procedures which you expect employees to adhere to and makes clear what the consequences may be if these policies are not followed. Without clear documentation in place, it can become difficult to address problems when they arise.

Induction and Right to Work checks

With Brexit fast approaching, it’s important to make sure that formal induction processes, which include ‘Right To Work’ checks are carried out and recorded adequately. The penalties for employing someone who doesn’t have the right to remain and work in the UK can be severe (including possible jail time and fines up to £20,000) therefore the risk applies to all businesses.

ProAktive Document Review

One way that ProAktive can support your business is by carrying out a full HR document review.

We will look at your contracts of employment, Employee Handbook and Induction Documents to ensure they meet the latest legislative requirements and provide maximum support for your business. Where you don’t currently have documentation in place, we will provide you with a suite of documents which you can utilise within the business.

If you would like more information on this service or other ways in which the HR team can support your business, please contact Louise Turner or Kris Kerins on 01302 341 344.

What does Covid-19 mean for your liability insurance?

Covid-19 continues to change everyday life, with new restrictions and practices coming and going on almost a daily basis. Businesses have seen dramatic changes to their working practices and have had to adapt these rapidly to an unprecedented and unexpected situation.

With any dramatic change comes new challenges and unseen, unintended consequences, and the insurance world is no different. Liability insurers are already starting to predict what the consequences of these changes will be for injury claims.

The expectation is that the market will begin to see a shift in the areas where employees and third parties will make claims against businesses, many of these related to how businesses have been forced to adapt to the added pressures of keeping both workforce and public safe from Covid-19. Indeed, some insurers are already seeing increases in ‘ambulance chaser’ solicitors advertising services for Covid-19 related claims!

 

There are several key areas insurers have already identified:

  • Insurers expect there will be a rise in manual handling injuries arising from lone working or distancing rules, citing a lack of supervision or appropriate training for rapidly changing processes.
  • Home working claims may also rise as employers come to grips with a new way of working, as employees may look to claim for injuries in the home while on work time or face musculoskeletal injuries from inadequate workspaces and set ups.
  • Respiratory illnesses will undoubtedly increase from workforce and public alike, not just from the immediate consequences of Covid-19 diagnosis, but also the latent long-term effects which continue to become apparent
  • Psychological injuries, in particular occupational stress and mental health, are likely to rise especially as awareness towards mental health issues increases, as employers struggle to see the signs of stress remotely and employees may be worried about coming forward with issues surrounding their workloads for fears of job loss
  • Third Party claims from the public, especially in relation to known property defects or perceived lack of Covid-19 protections, are also expected to rise as the economy continues to struggle, with a reduction in jobs and income making people more willing to claim where they may not have done so before, especially if solicitors advertising for Covid-19 related claims becomes the norm

What can be done to help mitigate these claims?

  • Update current risk assessments to accommodate new working practices and ensure personal protective equipment and now working practice training is given and recorded as appropriate
  • Ensure your accident books are filled out fully and kept up to date and obtain any witness details you can where reasonable and possible
  • Keep relevant documentation to show you have been keeping up to date with Covid-19 guidance and implemented changes and protections as required
  • Ensure risk assessments are undertaken for those now working from home, to make sure their working environment is as comfortable as possible and that employees have the correct equipment to work safely and effectively
  • Retain frequent contact with employees – video calls, while potentially unpopular, may mean it is easier to read body language and see the signs of stress
  • Regularly inspect your property and Covid-19 protections, log any defects, and ensure maintenance or any required action is undertaken in as timely a manner as possible.

If you would like to talk to ProAktive about your commercial insurance requirements, you can contact us on 01302 341 344 or 0114 243 9914. 

By Sam Harby Dip CIICommercial Account Handler

Covid-19 Update 23.09.2020

Yesterday the Government once again introduced new measures to tackle the rise in Coronavirus cases.

During his address the Prime Minster was keen to make it clear that this was not a general instruction to stay at home and that we are not returning to a full a full lock down, like the one in March. The new measures will, however, have an impact on how businesses trade and the way in which employees work.

So, what has changed?

  • Office workers who can work from home should do so.
    • In all professions where homeworking is not possible, such as construction or retail – people should continue to attend their workplaces.
  • From Thursday all pubs, bars and restaurants must operate table-service only, except for takeaways.
  • All hospitality venues must close at 10pm. This means closing and not just calling for last orders. The same will apply to takeaways – though deliveries can continue thereafter.
  • The requirement to wear face coverings is extended to include staff in retail, all users of taxis and private hire vehicles, and staff and customers in indoor hospitality, except when seated at a table to eat or drink.
  • In retail, leisure, tourism and other sectors, the Government’s Covid-19 secure guidelines will become legal obligations. Businesses will be fined and could be closed if they breach these rules.
  • From Monday 28th September, a maximum of 15 people will be able to attend wedding ceremonies and receptions with up to 30 people being able to attend a funeral.
  • The rule of six is extended to all adult indoor team sports.
  • The reopening of business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events will not go ahead as planned from 1 October.
  • The penalty for failing to wear a mask or breaking the rule of six will now double to £200 for a first offence.

What remains the same?

  • Schools, colleges and universities will stay open.
  • Businesses can stay open in a Covid-19 compliant way.
  • The rule of six remains in place.
  • The Government will continue to act against local flare-ups, working alongside councils and strengthening measures where necessary.
  • Those who were previously advised to shield do not need to return to shielding – except in local lockdown areas – and this will be kept under constant review.

The Government has advised that unless anything changes, we should assume that the restrictions announced are likely to remain in place for the next six months.

These updates may result in the need for you to review working practices and require changes to current Coronavirus Risk Assessments. Equally employees will no doubt have questions about what this means for the way they work. Businesses should consider if employees who have previously worked from home should now return to this or if there are roles in business where working from home is possible. Communicating with staff about the action the business is taking in response to the new measure may help to alleviate concerns employees have.

If you need support on the impact any of these changes may have to your business we will be happy to help. Call 01302 341 344. 

By Louise Turner Dip Mgmt (Open) Assoc CIPDHR Business Partner

and Rachel Cuff CMIOSH Risk Consultant 

When should employees self-isolate and/or get tested for Covid-19?

As cases of Coronavirus are increasing it is important to understand when employees should self-isolate and when they need to get tested.

When to self-isolate

You must self-isolate immediately if:

  • you have any symptoms of Coronavirus (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste)
  • you’ve tested positive for Coronavirus
  • you live with someone who has symptoms or tested positive
  • someone in your support bubble has symptoms or tested positive
  • you’re told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace
  • you arrive in the UK from a country with a high coronavirus risk

When to get a test

Get a test as soon as possible if you have any symptoms of Coronavirus.

The test needs to be done in the first 5 days of having symptoms.

How long to self-isolate

If you have symptoms or have tested positive for Coronavirus, you’ll usually need to self-isolate for at least 10 days.

You’ll need to self-isolate for 14 days if:

  • someone you live with has symptoms or tested positive
  • someone in your support bubble has symptoms or tested positive
  • you’ve been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace

If you’re told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace

Stay at home for 14 days

If you’re told to self-isolate because you’ve been in contact with a person who has Coronavirus:

  • self-isolate for 14 days from the day you were last in contact with the person – as it can take up to 14 days for symptoms to appear

If you get symptoms of Coronavirus

If you get any symptoms of Coronavirus (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste) while you’re self-isolating:

  • get a test to check if you have Coronavirus as soon as possible
  • If you test negative keep self-isolating for the rest of the 14 days from when you were last in contact with the person who has Coronavirus
  • If you test positive self-isolate for at least 10 days from when your symptoms started – even if it means you’re self-isolating for longer than 14 days

If you do not get symptoms of Coronavirus

If you do not get any symptoms of Coronavirus while self-isolating:

  • you can stop self-isolating after 14 days
  • you do not need to have a test

Please visit the links below if you’re not sure whether to self-isolate or get a test:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-and-treatment/when-to-self-isolate-and-what-to-do/

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-how-it-works

Making Your Office Covid Secure

With schools and Parliament having returned following the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government has also been pushing for office staff to return to work. Surveys suggest that only 34% of office workers have gone back to work in Britain compared to 68% elsewhere in Europe.

It is understandable that there is a reluctance to get office staff back into the workplace. There are risks involved in returning and most companies have harnessed the power of technology to successfully allow employees to work from home in a way that hasn’t affected business. However, there are benefits to bringing employees back, the most important of these being the mental health of your staff.

Some surveys have suggested that up to 80% of people working from home feel that it has negatively impacted their mental health. Bringing people back to work safely will allow them to get back a bit of the ‘normal’ that they have missed. Things like routine, being able to take a break from their computers and socially distanced interaction with colleagues can really boost a person’s mental health.

 

So how do we do it safely?

The Government has released guidance for all workplaces with advice on how to make your workplace Covid secure and keep everyone safe.

The main things to consider are:

Environmental changes

  • Enhanced cleaning regimes
  • Increased airflow
  • Signage and stickers reminding people of the importance of hand hygiene and maintaining a social distance
  • Screens to create physical barriers between people
  • Having people working side-by-side rather than face-to-face
  • Managing occupancy levels

 

Behavioural changes

  • Respecting and understanding social distancing and other measures in place through good communication and training
  • Following one-way systems
  • Adhering to clear desk policies to ensure workstations can be cleaned

Having discussions with your employees and ensuring good communication about their return to work will help everyone to feel involved and secure in the knowledge that on their return they will be safe.

A flexible approach is the best option as it is likely that a combination of office and home working is here to stay for most office premises. Embracing the new normal is a learning curve for us all!

If you need any help making your office Covid secure, please call ProAktive.

By Rachel Cuff CMIOSHRisk Consultant

 

What to do if redundancies are a possibility

As managers and business owners we never want to find ourselves in a position where we have to place staff at risk of redundancy, however it is clear that as a result of the global economic crisis caused by Covid-19, this may be the position businesses find themselves in over the coming months and indeed into next year.

Going through a redundancy process is stressful for all involved and comes with some employment risks and therefore it is important that businesses take advice on the process and also consider how they can support staff through this difficult time.

Staff under notice of redundancy

One way to support staff is by helping them find alternative employment or allowing them to attend training which may help them find alternative employment.

You must allow staff a reasonable amount of paid time off to look for another job or to do training if:

  • you’re making them redundant
  • they’ve worked for 2 full years (including the notice period)

 

You do not have to pay more than 40% of a week’s pay, no matter how much time off you allow.

You can also signpost employees to organisations which may be able to offer them support. Jobcentre Plus for example offers a ‘Rapid Response Service’ to help people get straight back into work and can also help employees write or update CVs.

But supporting staff doesn’t just stop with those who are under notice of redundancy. We also need to consider others within the business.

 

Managers who deliver the news and lead the consultation

Throughout the redundancy process employees within the business will have questions and therefore it is important that the manager or supervisor leading the redundancy process:

  • understands the detail of the organisation’s plans
  • knows why redundancies are being made
  • is trained or understands the redundancy process
  • has the capacity to carry out of the required meetings

The manager’s handling of a redundancy process can act to reassure staff that the redundancy is being dealt with fairly and that all reasonable alternatives to redundancy are being considered.

 

Staff that are remaining within the business

The impact on employees within the business who have watched friends and colleagues go through a redundancy process or who have been part of the selection process for redundancy can often be overlooked. Employees can be left feeling insecure about their role and wondering if they are likely to be affected in the future.

You can help with this process by ensuring that all employees understand the business reason for considering redundancies and know who they can speak to if they have any questions or ideas on how the business can avoid redundancies.

Like any change process which takes place within a business, it can be stressful for all concerned but keeping clear accessible lines of communication open for all can alleviate some of the worries.

If you would like our advice and assistance, please contact us on either 01302 341 344 or email me – louiseturner@proaktive.co.uk

Mental Health First Aid Awareness Course

Format

4-hour online course via Zoom (with a 1-hour break between 2-hour tutor led sessions). Spaces limited to 14 delegates.

Supporting your employee’s awareness of mental health, covering:

– Raising awareness and mental health literacy
– Brief overview of some of the major health issues such as anxiety, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia and suicide
– An understanding of the factors that affect mental health
– Identify the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health issues
– Increasing knowledge and confidence to start mental health conversations
– Understanding the importance of looking after you own mental health

Details

Cost: £140+VAT
Venue: Virtual, via Zoom
Date: 5th Nov 2020

If you are interested in attending the above training session please confirm your interest to Kris Kerins on either 01302 341344 or kriskerins@proaktive.co.uk