Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Other people's homes

Guidance for people working in, visiting or delivering to other people's homes.

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Introduction

This document is to help employers, employees and the self-employed in the UK understand how to work safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, keeping as many people as possible 2 metres apart from those they do not live with. We hope it gives you freedom within a practical framework to think about what you need to do to continue, or restart, operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. We understand how important it is that you can work safely and support your employees’ health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that many businesses of this type are currently closed for their usual service. We hope this document will help those who are already working because they cannot work from home, as well as help other people think about how to prepare for when they return to work. The government is clear that workers should not be forced into an unsafe workplace.

This document has been prepared by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) with input from firms, unions, industry bodies and the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and in consultation with Public Health England (PHE) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Public health is devolved in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales; this guidance should be considered alongside local public health and safety requirements and legislation in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. For advice to businesses in other parts of the UK please see guidance set by the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government.

We expect that this document will be updated over time. This version is up to date as of 11 May 2020. You can check for updates at www.gov.uk/workingsafely. If you have any feedback for us, please email workingsafely@beis.gov.uk.

This document is one of a set of documents about how to work safely in different types of workplace. This one is designed to be relevant for people who provide services in, and to, people’s homes (whether employed or self-employed) as well as employers of these individuals (which may include households). It will also be relevant to agencies who work with these individuals.

How to use this guidance

This document sets out guidance on how to work safely. It gives practical considerations of how this can be applied in the workplace.

Each business will need to translate this into the specific actions it needs to take, depending on the nature of their business, including the size and type of business, how it is organised, operated, managed and regulated.

This guidance does not supersede any legal obligations relating to health and safety, employment or equalities and it is important that as a business or an employer you continue to comply with your existing obligations, including those relating to individuals with protected characteristics. It contains non-statutory guidance to take account when complying with these existing obligations. When considering how to apply this guidance, take into account agency workers, contractors and other people, as well as your employees.

To help you decide which actions to take, you need to carry out an appropriate coronavirus risk assessment, just as you would for other health and safety related hazards. This risk assessment must be done in consultation with unions or workers.

What do we mean by ‘working in other people’s homes’?

We acknowledge that this is a complex environment due to the varied employment relationships, including the self-employed, employers and agencies.

This guidance applies to those working in, visiting or delivering to home environments. These include, but are not limited to, people working in the following areas:

  • in home workers – such as repair services, fitters, meter readers, plumbers, cleaners, cooks and surveyors (this is not an exhaustive list)
  • to home services – such as delivery drivers momentarily at the door

This guidance does not directly apply to nannies who spend all their time with one household, or to their employers.

1. Thinking about risk

In this section

Objective: That all employers carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment.

Everyone needs to assess and manage the risks of COVID-19. As an employer, you also have a legal responsibility to protect workers and others from risk to their health and safety. This means you need to think about the risks they face and do everything reasonably practicable to minimise them, recognising you cannot completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19.

You must make sure that the risk assessment for your business addresses the risks of COVID-19, using this guidance to inform your decisions and control measures. A risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace. If you have fewer than 5 workers, or are self-employed, you don’t have to write anything down as part of your risk assessment. Your risk assessment will help you decide whether you have done everything you need to. The Health and Safety Executive has guidance for business on how to manage risk and risk assessment at work along with specific advice to help control the risk of coronavirus in workplaces.

Employers have a duty to consult their people on health and safety. You can do this by listening and talking to them about the work and how you will manage risks from COVID-19. The people who do the work are often the best people to understand the risks in the workplace and will have a view on how to work safely. Involving them in making decisions shows that you take their health and safety seriously. You must consult with the health and safety representative selected by a recognised trade union or, if there isn’t one, a representative chosen by workers. As an employer, you cannot decide who the representative will be.

At its most effective, full involvement of your workers creates a culture where relationships between employers and workers are based on collaboration, trust and joint problem solving. As is normal practice, workers should be involved in assessing workplace risks and the development and review of workplace health and safety policies in partnership with the employer.

Employers and workers should always come together to resolve issues. If concerns still cannot be resolved, see below for further steps you can take.

Where the enforcing authority, such as the HSE or your local authority, identifies employers who are not taking action to comply with the relevant public health legislation and guidance to control public health risks, they will consider taking a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks. For example, this would cover employers not taking appropriate action to socially distance, where possible. The actions the HSE can take include the provision of specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices to help secure improvements.

How to raise a concern:

  • contact your employee representative
  • contact your trade union if you have one
  • contact HSE at:

HSE COVID-19 enquiries
Telephone: 0300 790 6787 (Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 8pm)
Online: working safely enquiry form

1.1 Thinking about managing risk

Objective: To reduce risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures, in order of priority

Employers have a duty to reduce workplace risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures. Employers must work with any other employers or contractors sharing the workplace so that everybody’s health and safety is protected. In the context of COVID-19 this means working through these steps in order:

  1. In every workplace, increasing the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning.

  2. Businesses and workplaces should make every reasonable effort to enable working from home as a first option. Where working from home is not possible, workplaces should make every reasonable effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government (keeping people 2m apart wherever possible).

  3. Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full, in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between their staff.

  4. Further mitigating actions include:

    – increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning
    – keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
    – using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
    – using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible
    – reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others)

  5. Finally, if people must work face-to-face for a sustained period with more than a small group of fixed partners, then you will need to assess whether the activity can safely go ahead. No one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment.

  6. In your assessment you should have particular regard to whether the people doing the work are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

The recommendations in the rest of this document are ones you should consider as you go through this process. You could also consider any advice that has been produced specifically for your sector, for example by trade associations or trades unions.

If you have not already done so, you should carry out an assessment of the risks posed by COVID-19 in your workplace as soon as possible. If you are currently operating, you are likely to have gone through a lot of this thinking already. We recommend that you use this document to identify any further improvements you should make.

Steps that will usually be needed when working in homes:

  1. No work should be carried out in a household which is isolating because one or more family members has symptoms or where an individual has been advised to shield - unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household.

  2. When working in a household where somebody is clinically vulnerable, but has not been asked to shield, for example, the home of someone over 70, prior arrangements should be made with vulnerable people to avoid any face-to-face contact, for example, when answering the door. You should be particularly strict about handwashing, coughing and sneezing hygiene, such as covering your nose and mouth and disposing of single-use tissues.

  3. Staying updated with the latest guidance and considering how it can be applied to your work. This can include:

    – washing your hands more often than usual for 20 seconds using soap and hot water, particularly after coughing, sneezing and blowing your nose

    – reducing the spread of germs when you cough or sneeze by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue, or your sleeve (not your hands) if you don’t have a tissue and throw the tissue in a bin immediately, then wash your hands

    – cleaning regularly touched objects and surfaces using your regular cleaning products to reduce the risk of passing the infection on to other people

    – communicating with households prior to any visit to discuss how the work will be carried out to minimise risk for all parties

    – maintaining social distance as far as possible

1.2 Sharing your risk assessment

Risk assessment results should be shared with others working in a home or when visiting others’ homes. If possible, you should consider publishing the results on your website (and we would expect all businesses with over 50 workers to do so).

Below you will find a notice you should display, which can also be provided as cards, stickers or similar, to show you have followed this guidance.

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2. Who should go to work

In this section

Objective: That everyone should work from home, unless they cannot work from home.

It is recognised that for providers of in-home services, it is often not possible to work from home.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Finding digital or remote alternatives to physical, in-home work where possible such as video or phone consultations.

  2. Discussing working environment and practices with householders and clients in advance to confirm how the work will be carried out, if a physical visit is needed.

  3. Employers and agencies should keep in touch with workers, who they might usually meet with face-to-face, on their working arrangements including their welfare, mental and physical health and personal security.

2.1 Protecting people who are at higher risk

Objective: To protect clinically vulnerable and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.

Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals have been strongly advised not to work outside the home.

Clinically vulnerable individuals, who are at high risk of severe illness (for example, people with some pre existing conditions), have been asked to take extra care in observing social distancing and should be helped to work from home, either in their current role or in an alternative role.

If clinically vulnerable (but not extremely clinically extremely vulnerable) individuals cannot work from home, they should be offered the option of the safest available on site roles, enabling them to stay 2m away from others. If they have to spend time within 2m of others, you should carefully assess whether this involves an acceptable level of risk. As for any workplace risk you must take into account specific duties to those with protected characteristics, including, for example, expectant mothers who are, as always, entitled to suspension on full pay if suitable roles cannot be found. Particular attention should also be paid to people who live with clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Provide support for workers around mental health and wellbeing. This could include guidance or telephone support.

  2. See current guidance for advice on who is in the shielding and clinically vulnerable groups.

2.2 People who need to self-isolate

Objective: To make sure individuals who are advised to stay at home under existing government guidance do not physically come to work. This includes individuals who have symptoms of coronavirus as well as those who live in a household with someone who has symptoms.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Enabling workers to work from home while self-isolating if appropriate.

  2. See current guidance for employers and employees relating to statutory sick pay due to coronavirus.

  3. See current guidance for people who have symptoms and those who live with others who have symptoms.

2.3 Equality in the workplace

Objective: To treat everyone in your workplace equally.

In applying this guidance, employers should be mindful of the particular needs of different groups of workers or individuals.

It is breaking the law to discriminate, directly or indirectly, against anyone because of a protected characteristic such as age, sex or disability.

Employers also have particular responsibilities towards disabled workers and those who are new or expectant mothers.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Understanding and taking into account the particular circumstances of those with different protected characteristics.

  2. Involving and communicating appropriately with workers whose protected characteristics might either expose them to a different degree of risk, or might make any steps you are thinking about inappropriate or challenging for them.

  3. Considering whether you need to put in place any particular measures or adjustments to take account of your duties under the equalities legislation.

  4. Making reasonable adjustments to avoid disabled workers being put at a disadvantage, and assessing the health and safety risks for new or expectant mothers.

  5. Making sure that the steps you take do not have an unjustifiable negative impact on some groups compared to others, for example, those with caring responsibilities or those with religious commitments.

3. Social distancing at work

In this section:

Objective: To maintain 2m social distancing wherever possible, including arriving at and departing from work, while in work, and when travelling between sites.

You must maintain social distancing in the workplace wherever possible.

Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between their staff.

Mitigating actions include:

  • further increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning
  • keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
  • using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
  • using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible
  • reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others)

Social distancing applies to all parts of a business, not just the place where people spend most of their time, but also entrances and exits, break rooms, canteens and similar settings. These are often the most challenging areas to maintain social distancing.

3.1 Coming to and leaving a home for work

Objective: To maintain social distancing wherever possible, including on arrival and departure and to ensure handwashing upon arrival.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Consider travelling to sites alone using your own transport, where insurance allows.

  2. If workers have no option but to travel together, for example delivery teams, the following should be encouraged:

    – journeys should be with the same individuals and limited in the number of people travelling per vehicle

    – maintaining good ventilation, for example keeping windows open and passengers facing away from one another to reduce risk of transmission

    – vehicles regularly cleaned using gloves and standard cleaning products, with emphasis on handles and other areas where passengers may touch surfaces

    – where possible, employers or agencies should match workers to households local to them to minimise transportation

    – wash hands on arrival and maintain social distancing when entering the home.

3.2 Moving around when working in a home

Objective: To maintain social distancing wherever possible while performing work in the home.

It is recognised that for providers of some in-home services, it will not always be possible to maintain physical distance from customers.

If it isn’t possible to maintain social distancing while working in the home then extra attention needs to be paid to equipment, cleaning and hygiene to reduce risk.

Working materials, such as tools or domestic appliances, should be assigned to an individual and not shared if possible. If they need to be shared, they should be shared by the smallest possible number of people.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Discussing with households ahead of a visit to ask that a 2m distance is kept from those working, if possible.

  2. Asking that households leave all internal doors open to minimise contact with door handles.

  3. Identifying busy areas across the household where people travel to, from or through, for example, stairs and corridors, and minimising movement within these areas.

  4. Bringing your own food and drink to households and having breaks outside where possible.

  5. Limiting the number of workers within a confined space to maintain social distancing.

  6. Using a fixed pairing system if people have to work in close proximity. For example, during two-person assembly or maintenance.

  7. Allocating the same workers to a household where jobs are repetitive. Employers and agencies should introduce fixed pairing to have the same individuals allocated to a household where jobs are repetitive in nature.

3.3 Appointments in the home

Objective: To reduce transmission due to face-to-face meetings and maintain social distancing in meetings.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Using remote working tools to avoid in-person appointments.

  2. Only absolutely necessary participants should attend appointments and should maintain 2m separation where possible.

  3. Avoiding transmission during appointments, for example, from sharing pens and other objects.

  4. Holding meetings outdoors or in well-ventilated rooms whenever possible.

3.4 Accidents, security and other incidents

Objective: To prioritise safety during incidents.

In an emergency, for example, an accident, fire, or break-in, people do not have to stay 2m apart if it would be unsafe.

People involved in the provision of assistance to others should pay particular attention to sanitation measures immediately afterwards, including washing hands.

4 Interacting with householders

4.1 Providing and explaining available guidance

Objective: To make sure people understand what they need to do to maintain safety.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. If you are an employer or agency, providing your workers with information about how to operate safely in people’s homes.

  2. Communicating with households prior to arrival, and on arrival, to ensure the household understands the social distancing and hygiene measures that should be followed once work has commenced.

5. Cleaning the work area

In this section

5.1 Keeping the work area clean

Objective: To keep work areas in a home clean and prevent transmission by touching contaminated surfaces.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Frequent cleaning of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your usual cleaning products.

  2. Arranging methods of safely disposing waste with the householder.

  3. Removing all waste and belongings from the work area at the end of a shift and at the end of a job.

  4. If you are cleaning after a known or suspected case of coronavirus then you should refer to the specific guidance.

5.2 Hygiene

Objective: To help everyone keep good hygiene through the working day.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Washing your hands more often than usual for 20 seconds using soap and hot water, particularly after coughing, sneezing and blowing your nose.

  2. Reducing the spread of germs when you cough or sneeze by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve, not your hands. Throw the tissue in a bin immediately, then wash your hands.

  3. Cleaning regularly touched objects and surfaces using your regular cleaning products to reduce the risk of passing the infection on to other people.

  4. If handwashing facilities are not accessible, you should carry hand sanitiser.

5.3 Handling goods, merchandise and other materials

Objective: To reduce transmission through contact with objects that come into or are removed from the home.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Ensuring social distancing and hygiene measures are followed when supplies or tools are needed to be delivered to a home, for example building supplies.

  2. Collecting materials in bulk to reduce the frequency of needing to visit shops to buy or collect materials.

  3. Removing waste in bulk if possible.

6. Personal protective equipment (PPE) and face coverings

In this section

PPE protects the user against health or safety risks at work. It can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. It also includes respiratory protective equipment, such as face masks.

Where you are already using PPE in your work activity to protect against non-COVID-19 risks, you should continue to do so.

At the start of this document we described the steps you need to take to manage COVID-19 risk in the workplace. This includes working from home and staying 2m away from each other in the workplace if at all possible.When managing the risk of COVID-19, additional PPE beyond what you usually wear is not beneficial. This is because COVID-19 is a different type of risk to the risks you normally face in a workplace, and needs to be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering, not through the use of PPE.

The exception is clinical settings, like a hospital, or a small handful of other roles for which Public Health England advises use of PPE, for example, first responders and immigration enforcement officers. If you are in one of these groups you should refer to the advice at:

Workplaces should not encourage the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against COVID-19 outside clinical settings or when responding to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.

Unless you are in a situation where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is very high, your risk assessment should reflect the fact that the role of PPE in providing additional protection is extremely limited. However, if your risk assessment does show that PPE is required, then you must provide this PPE free of charge to workers who need it. Any PPE provided must fit properly.

6.1 Face coverings

There are some circumstances when wearing a face covering may be marginally beneficial as a precautionary measure. The evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not protect you, but it may protect others if you are infected but have not developed symptoms.

A face covering can be very simple and may be worn in enclosed spaces where social distancing isn’t possible. It just needs to cover your mouth and nose. It is not the same as a face mask, such as the surgical masks or respirators used by health and care workers. Similarly, face coverings are not the same as the PPE used to manage risks like dust and spray in an industrial context. Supplies of PPE, including face masks, must continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers, and those in industrial settings like those exposed to dust hazards.

It is important to know that the evidence of the benefit of using a face covering to protect others is weak and the effect is likely to be small, therefore face coverings are not a replacement for the other ways of managing risk, including minimising time spent in contact, using fixed teams and partnering for close-up work, and increasing hand and surface washing. These other measures remain the best ways of managing risk in the workplace and government would therefore not expect to see employers relying on face coverings as risk management for the purpose of their health and safety assessments.

Wearing a face covering is optional and is not required by law, including in the workplace. If you choose to wear one, it is important to use face coverings properly and wash your hands before putting them on and taking them off. You should be prepared to remove your face covering if asked to do so by police officers and staff for the purposes of identification.

Employers should support their workers in using face coverings safely if they choose to wear one. This means telling workers:

  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on, and after removing it
  • when wearing a face covering, avoid touching your face or face covering, as you could contaminate them with germs from your hands
  • change your face covering if it becomes damp or if you’ve touched it
  • continue to wash your hands regularly
  • change and wash your face covering daily
  • if the material is washable, wash in line with manufacturer’s instructions. If it’s not washable, dispose of it carefully in your usual waste
  • practise social distancing wherever possible

You can make face-coverings at home. Find guidance on how to wear and make a face-covering on GOV.UK.

7. Workforce management: guidance for employers and agencies

In this section

7.1 Team working

Objective: To change the way work is organised to create distinct groups and reduce the number of contacts each worker has.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Where multiple workers are in a home, creating fixed teams of workers who carry out their duties in those teams, and minimising contact between each team.

  2. Identifying areas where people need to hand things to each other (such as shared tools and domestic appliances) and finding ways to remove direct contact, for example, by using drop-off points or transfer zones.

  3. Allocating the same worker to the same household each time there is a visit, for example, the same cleaner each time.

7.2 Work-related travel

Objective: To avoid unnecessary work-related travel and keep workers safe when they do need to travel between homes.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Follow the social distancing guidelines outlined in Section 2.1 –‘Coming to and leaving a home for work’.

  2. Where workers need to move between different homes and locations to complete their work, social distancing and hygiene advice should be considered, especially before entering other homes.

  3. Where workers are required to stay away from their residence, making sure any overnight accommodation meets social distancing guidelines.

7.3 Communications and training

7.3.1 Returning to work

Objective: To make sure all workers understand coronavirus related safety procedures.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Providing clear, consistent and regular communication to improve understanding and consistency of ways of working amongst your workers.

  2. Engaging with workers through existing communication routes and worker representatives to explain and agree any changes in working arrangements.

7.3.2 Ongoing communications

Objective: To make sure all workers are kept up to date with how safety measures are being implemented or updated.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Ongoing engagement with workers, (including through trades unions or employee representative groups) to monitor and understand any unforeseen impacts of changes to working environments.

  2. Awareness and focus on the importance of mental health at times of uncertainty. The government has published guidance on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus (COVID-19).

  3. Using simple, clear messaging to explain guidelines using images and clear language, with consideration of groups for which English may not be their first language.

  4. Communicating approaches and operational procedures to households to help their adoption before work commences.

8. Deliveries to the home

Objective: To maintain social distancing and avoid surface transmission when goods enter and leave a home.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Minimising contact during deliveries wherever possible.

  2. Where possible and safe, having single workers load or unload vehicles.

  3. Where possible, using the same pairs of people for loads where more than one is needed.

  4. Minimising the contact during delivery, for example, by calling to inform of your arrival rather than ringing the doorbell.

  5. Minimising the contact during payments and exchange of documentation, for example, using electronic payment methods and electronically signed and exchanged documents.

Where to obtain further guidance

Find advice and support from your business representative organisation or trade association.

Appendix

Definitions

Clinically extremely vulnerable people Refers to people who have specific underlying health conditions that make them extremely vulnerable to severe illness if they contract COVID-19. Clinically extremely vulnerable people will have received a letter telling them they are in this group, or will have been told by their GP. Who is ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’?
Clinically vulnerable people Refers to people who may be at increased risk from COVID-19, including those aged 70 or over and those with some underlying health conditions. Who is ‘clinically vulnerable’?