Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Other people's homes

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

Applies to: England (see guidance for Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland)

COVID-19 roadmap

Step 3 of the roadmap out of lockdown has begun. Some of the rules changed on 17 May 2021, but restrictions remain in place.

A new COVID-19 variant is spreading in some parts of England. There may be additional advice for your area. Find out what you need to do.

This guide was updated on 17 May 2021.

What’s changed

We’ve now moved to Step 3.

National restrictions – Spring 2021

On 22 February the government published the ‘COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021’ setting out how coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions will be eased over 4 steps.  

The roadmap has set out indicative, ‘no earlier than’ dates for the steps which are 5 weeks apart.

It takes around 4 weeks for the data to reflect the impact of the previous step. The government will provide a further week’s notice to individuals and businesses before making changes.

Work in other people’s homes can continue, provided COVID-secure guidance is followed.

Priority actions to take - what businesses need to do to protect staff and customers

Eight steps to protect yourself, your staff and your customers during coronavirus.

1. Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment

Complete a risk assessment, considering the reasonable adjustments needed for staff and customers with disabilities. Share it with all your staff. Find out how to do a risk assessment.

2. Clean more often

Increase how often you clean surfaces, especially those that are being touched a lot. Ask your staff, visitors or contractors to use hand sanitiser and wash their hands frequently.

3. Remind your customers and staff to wear face coverings in any indoor space or where the law says they must

You could do this using signs. However, you’re not responsible for enforcing customer face covering law. This is an important reminder to help mitigate transmission. This is especially important if your customers are likely to be around people they do not normally meet. Some exemptions apply. Check when to wear one, exemptions, and how to make your own.

4. Make sure everyone can maintain social distancing

Make it easy for everyone to do so by putting up signs or introducing a one way system that your customers can follow.

5. Provide adequate ventilation

This means supplying fresh air to enclosed space where people are present. This can be natural ventilation through windows, doors and vents, mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, or a combination of both. Read the HSE advice on air conditioning and ventilation.

6. Take part in NHS Test and Trace

Betting shops are legally required to keep a record of all customers, visitors and staff for 21 days. Other retail businesses should keep a record of all staff and contractors (not customers) for 21 days.

Check ‘Maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace’ for details.

7. Turn people with coronavirus symptoms away

Staff members or customers should self-isolate if they or someone in their household has a persistent cough, a high temperature or has lost their sense of taste or smell, they should be isolating. If someone is self-isolating, employers must not ask or make them come to work.  It is an offence to do this. 

8. Consider the mental health and wellbeing aspects of COVID-19 for yourself and others.

See the guidance on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of (COVID-19).

Other things to be aware of

Five more things to be aware of if your business provides services in other people’s homes:

Explain safety measures to your customers before entering their homes

Make sure that members of the household know they should maintain social distancing from you.

Avoid crowded areas

Identify busy locations in the house such as hallways and avoid moving through them where possible.

Limit contact with customers

Bring your own food and drink and take breaks outside where possible. Avoid sharing items such as pens or tools.

When working in a household with people at higher risk, take extra measures to avoid contact

For example, working in a separate room from them.

Communicate and train

Make sure all staff and customers are kept up to date with how safety measures are being used. 

These are the priority actions to make your business safe during coronavirus. You should also read the full version of the guidance below.

Introduction

This guide will help you understand how to make your workplace COVID-secure and help stop the spread of COVID-19.

We thank you for playing your part in this national effort.

Who this guide is for

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:

  • employed or self-employed people who provide services in, and to, people’s homes
  • employers of these individuals, which may include households
  • agencies who work with these individuals

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 – for example, repair services, fitters, meter readers, plumbers, cleaners, cooks, visiting childcare providers, and surveyors (this is not an exhaustive list)
  • to home services – for example, delivery drivers momentarily at the door

This guidance does not directly apply to live-in nannies who spend all their time with one household. Nor does it apply to their employers.

People delivering close contact services in other people’s homes should also refer to guidance on keeping workers and clients safe during COVID-19 in close contact services.

We expect that this document will be updated over time. You can check for updates at www.gov.uk/workingsafely.

Who has contributed to this guide

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. BEIS consulted 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.

If you have any feedback on this guidance, please email safer.workplaces@beis.gov.uk.

How to use this guidance

This document gives you guidance on how to open workplaces safely while minimising the risk of spreading COVID-19. It provides practical considerations of how to apply this in the workplace.

You will need to translate this into the specific actions you need to take. These will depend on the nature of your business, including the size and type of business, how it is organised, operated, managed and regulated. You will also need to monitor these measures to make sure they continue to protect customers and workers.

This guidance does not supersede any legal obligations relating to health and safety, entertainment licensing and regulations, employment or equalities. It is important that as a business or an employer you continue to comply with your existing obligations. This includes those relating to individuals with protected characteristics. This contains non-statutory guidance to take into account when complying with these existing obligations.

Remember this guidance does not just cover your employees. You must also take into account employees, agency workers, contractors and other people.

To help you decide which actions to take, you must carry out an appropriate COVID-19 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.

1. Thinking about risk

In this section

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

As an employer, you must by law protect workers and others from risk to their health and safety. This includes risks from COVID-19.

COVID-19 is a workplace hazard. You must manage it in the same way as other workplace hazards. This includes:

  • completing a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks of COVID-19 in the workplace
  • identifying control measures to manage that risk

Failure to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and put in place sufficient control measures to manage the risk may be considered a breach of health and safety law.

Your risk assessment will help you decide if you have done everything you need to. The Health and Safety Executive has tools to support you .

You should also consider the security implications of any decisions and control measures you intend to put in place. Any revisions could present new or altered security risks you may need to mitigate.

You do not have to write anything down as part of your risk assessment if you:

  • have fewer than 5 workers
  • are self-employed

However, you may still find it useful to do so.

Consult your workers

As an employer, you have a legal duty to consult workers on health and safety matters. You can do this by listening and talking to them about the work they do and how you will manage the risks from COVID-19.

You may do this by consulting with any recognised trade union health and safety representatives.

If you do not have any, you can consult with a representative chosen by workers. As an employer, you cannot decide who the representative will be.

Employers and workers should always come together to resolve issues. If you still cannot do this, see below for other steps you can take.

Enforcement

Enforcing authorities identify employers who do not take action to comply with the relevant public health legislation and guidance to control public health risks. When they do, they can take a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks. The HSE and your local authority are examples of enforcing authorities.

When they identify serious breaches, enforcing authorities can do a number of things. They include:

  • sending you a letter
  • serving you with an improvement or prohibition notice
  • bringing a prosecution against you, in cases where they identify significant breaches

When an enforcing authority issues you with any advice or notices, you should respond rapidly and within their timescales.

The vast majority of employers are responsible. They will work with the government and their sector bodies to protect their workers and the public.

However, inspectors are carrying out compliance checks nationwide to ensure that employers are taking the necessary steps.

How to raise a concern:

If you’re an employee, you can contact:

  • your employee representative
  • your trade union if you have one

You can also contact HSE at:

HSE COVID-19 enquiries
Telephone: 0300 790 6787
Online: working safely enquiry form

1.1 Managing risk

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

As an employer, you have a duty to reduce workplace risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level. You do this by taking preventative measures.

In the context of COVID-19 this means protecting the health and safety of your workers and clients by working through these steps in order:

  1. Make sure that workers and customers who feel unwell stay at home and do not attend the venue. By law, businesses may not require a self-isolating worker to come to work.

  2. Increase how often people wash their hands and clean surfaces in the workplace.

  3. Make every reasonable effort to ensure your employees can work safely. Consider reasonable adjustments for employees or customers with disabilities, including disabilities that are not immediately obvious. When in the workplace, everyone should make every reasonable effort to comply with the government’s social distancing guidelines. These are 2 metres or 1 metre+ with risk mitigation where 2 metres is not viable.

  4. Fresh air helps to dilute the virus in occupied spaces. Provide adequate ventilation through doors, windows and vents, by mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, or through a combination of both.

  5. Consider these additional control measures where 2 metre social distancing is not possible:

    – increase the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning even more
    – keep the activity time involved as short as possible
    – use screens or barriers to separate people from each other
    – use back-to-back or side-to-side working whenever possible, instead of face-to-face
    – reduce the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others)

  6. Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full, even through redesigning 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.

  7. When you cannot redesign an activity to meet social distance guidelines, ask if your business can continue without that activity. If it cannot, take all mitigation actions possible to reduce transmission risk between staff.

  8. Take steps so people don’t have to raise their voices to each other unless they need to. For example, make sure people don’t play music or broadcasts at a level that makes it hard to have normal conversations. This is because there is potentially an increased transmission risk, especially from aerosol transmission.

  9. If people must work face-to-face for a sustained period with more than a small group of fixed partners, assess if the activity can safely go ahead. No one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment.In your assessment pay particular regard to whether the people doing the work are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

  10. If your building has been unoccupied for a period during any lockdowns, consider legionella risk and HSE advice.

Singing, shouting and aerobic activities generate higher levels of aerosol and increase the risk of transmission further. You should consider these factors when ensuring you have adequate ventilation in the workplace. Lowering background noise, including music, reduces the need for people to sit close or shout. This can reduce the risk of airborne virus emissions and transmission.

You must consider the rest of the recommendations below as you go through this process.

You could also consider any advice that has been produced specifically for your sector. For example, by trades associations.

If you’re currently operating, you will already have carried out a COVID-19 risk assessment. You should use this document to identify any further improvements you should make.

You must review the measures you have put in place to make sure they are working. You should also review them if they may no longer be effective or there are changes in the workplace that could lead to new risks.

When you’re working in homes, you will usually need to:

  1. Not carry out any work in any household which is isolating because one or more family members has symptoms. This is unless you’re remedying a direct risk to the safety of the household or to the public.

  2. Continue any work required to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household or the public when you’re working in a household where one or more individuals has been advised to shield. Other types of work may be carried out in the home at the householders’ discretion. You should take additional precautions as outlined in step 3 below.

  3. Make prior arrangements with vulnerable people to avoid any face-to-face contact when you’re working in a household where somebody is clinically vulnerable, but has not been asked to shield. For example, when you’re working in the home of someone aged over 70 and they answer 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.

  4. Stay updated with the latest guidance, and consider how you can apply it to your work.

    This can include:

    –washing your hands more often than usual
    – reducing the spread of germs by coughing or sneezing into a tissue which is binned safely, or into your arms if a tissue is not available 
    – cleaning regularly touched objects and surfaces using your regular cleaning products
    – communicating with households before any visits, to discuss how the work will be carried out to minimise risk for all parties
    – maintaining social distancing guidelines as far as possible

1.2 Sharing the results of your risk assessment

You should share your risk assessment results with your workforce.

If possible, consider publishing the results on your website. We expect all employers with over 50 workers to do so.

All businesses should show their workers and clients they have:

  • properly assessed their risk taken appropriate measures to mitigate this

You should do this by displaying a notification:

  • in a prominent place in your business
  • on your website if you have one

To show you have followed this guidance, sign and display the notice below.

.

2. Who should go to work

In this section

Objective: Employers should ensure workplaces are safe for anyone who cannot work from home.

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

Anyone who can work from home should do so. However, you should consider whether home working is appropriate for workers facing mental or physical health difficulties or with a particularly challenging home working environment.

If COVID-secure guidelines are followed closely, the risk of transmission can be significantly reduced.

Employers should consult with their workers to decide who needs to come into the workplace. You should also consider the impact of workers coming into the workplace on local transport and take appropriate mitigating actions. For example, staggered start and finish times for staff.

You should give extra consideration to people at higher risk.

When employers consider that workers should come into their place of work, they should:

  • reflect this in the COVID-19 workplace risk assessment
  • take action to manage the risks of transmission in line with this guidance

You will usually need to:

  1. Find digital or remote alternatives to physical, in-home work where possible. For example video or phone consultations.

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

  3. Keep in touch with workers you would normally meet face to face, on their working arrangements including:

    – their welfare
    – mental and physical health
    – personal security

2.1 Protecting people who are at higher risk

Objective: To support those who are at higher risk of infection and/or an adverse outcome if infected.

There are some groups who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. They may be advised to take extra precautions to protect themselves. See guidance on who is at higher risk and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable. 

As an employer, you should make sure suitable arrangements are in place so that they can work safely. Government advice is that clinically extremely vulnerable people no longer need to shield, and should follow the general COVID-19 restrictions which apply to everyone.

We advise clinically extremely vulnerable individuals to work from home where possible. They can still attend work if they cannot work from home. Employers should consider whether clinically extremely vulnerable individuals can take on an alternative role or change their working patterns temporarily to avoid travelling during busy periods. 

You will usually need to:

  1. See current guidance on [protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable] and protecting vulnerable workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Put measures in place to ensure the workplace is COVID-secure. 

  2. Provide support to staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable, and consider options for altering work arrangements temporarily (if needed) so they can avoid travelling during busy periods. 

  3. Provide support for workers around mental health and wellbeing. This could include advice or telephone support. 

2.2 People who need to self-isolate

Objective: To stop people physically coming to work, when government guidance advises them to stay at home. This includes people who: 

  • have COVID-19 symptoms 
  • live in a household or are in a support bubblewith someone who has symptoms 
  • are required to self-isolate as part of NHS Test and Trace

You will usually need to:

  1. Enable workers to work from home while self-isolating if appropriate. It is illegal to knowingly require or encourage someone who is being required to self-isolate to come to work.

  2. See current guidance related to statutory sick pay due to COVID-19 for:

    employers
    employees

  3. Ensure any workers who have symptoms of COVID-19 self-isolate immediately and continue for the next 10 full days. This means that if, for example, their symptoms started at any time on the 15th of the month their isolation period ends at 11:59pm on the 25th.

    These symptoms are:

    – a high temperature
    – a new, continuous cough
    –a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste

    Workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate immediately and continue for the next 10 full days.

    Workers that test positive but have no symptoms must also self-isolate in this way. Sometimes workers develop symptoms during their isolation period. In these cases, they must restart their 10-day self-isolation period from the day after they develop symptoms.  See the guidance for people who live in households with possible or confirmed COVID-19 infections.

  4. Ensure any workers who are contacts of individuals who test positive for COVID-19 self-isolate for a period of 10 days. Contacts must self-isolate immediately and continue for the next 10 full days.

  5. Ensure any workers who have been informed by NHS Test and Trace that they are a close contact of a person who has had a positive test result for COVID-19 follow the requirement to self-isolate. See the guidance for those who have been in contact with, but do not live with, a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

2.3 Equality in the workplace

Objective: To make sure that nobody is discriminated against.

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

It’s against the law to discriminate against anyone because of their age, sex, disability, race or other ‘protected characteristic’. 

Read the government guidance on discrimination.

As an employer, you have particular responsibilities towards:

You will usually need to: 

  1. Understand and take into account the particular circumstances of those with different protected characteristics.  

  2. Involve and communicate appropriately with workers whose protected characteristics might either:

    – expose them to a different degree of risk 
    – make any steps you’re thinking about inappropriate or challenging for them 

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

  4. Make reasonable adjustments to avoid disabled workers being put at a disadvantage. 

  5. Assess the health and safety risks for new or expectant mothers.

  6. Make sure any steps you take do not have an unjustifiable negative impact on some groups compared to others. For example, those with caring responsibilities or religious commitments. 

3. Social distancing for workers

In this section:

Objective: Ensuring workers maintain social distancing guidelines wherever possible. These are 2 metres or 1 metre+ with risk mitigation where 2 metres is not viable. This includes when they arrive at and depart from work, while they are in work, and when they travel between sites.

You should maintain social distancing in the workplace wherever possible. Take account of those with protected characteristics, as social distancing may not be possible or will be more challenging for workers with certain disabilities. For example, individuals in wheelchairs or with visual impairments. You should discuss with disabled workers what reasonable adjustments can be made to the workplace so they can work safely. 

If you can, redesign business activities that cannot currently meet social distance guidelines.

You can mitigate risk by:

  • 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)

If you cannot redesign an activity to meet social distancing guidelines, consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate. If it does, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between staff.

Social distancing does not only apply to the room where you provide the service. It also covers all parts of a building or home. This includes entrances and exits, break rooms, canteens and similar settings.

These are often the most challenging areas to maintain social distancing and you should remind workers specifically.

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.

You will usually need to:

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

  2. When workers must travel together, for example delivery teams, then:

    – encourage the same people to take journeys together, and limit how many people travel in each vehicle
    – provide adequate ventilation by switching on systems that draw in fresh air or opening windows (partially if it’s cold)
    – ask passengers to face away from one another to reduce risk of transmission
    – clean vehicles regularly using gloves and standard cleaning products, paying particular attention to handles and other areas where passengers may touch surfaces
    – match workers to households local to them, where possible, to help minimise travel
    – encourage workers to wash their hands when they arrive at the home, and maintain social distancing when they enter it

    For more information on ventilation in vehicles read HSE guidance on ventilation and air conditioning.

  3. See the guidance on travelling to and from work and getting help with daily activities outside your home during coronavirus.

3.2 Moving around when working in a home

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

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

The social distancing guidelines are 2m, or 1m+ with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable. If you cannot maintain social distancing guidelines, reduce risk by paying extra attention to equipment, cleaning and hygiene.

If possible, assign working materials to an individual and make sure they are not shared. For example, tools or domestic appliances. If these materials must be shared, make sure they are shared by the smallest number of people possible.

You will usually need to:

  1. Discuss with households before you visit how you will keep to social distance guidelines, if possible. The guidelines are 2m, or 1m+ with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable.

  2. Ask households to leave all internal doors open, to minimise contact with door handles.

  3. Identify busy areas across the household where people travel to, from or through. For example, stairs and corridors. Minimise movement within these areas.

  4. Bring your own food and drink to households. Take breaks outside where possible.

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

  6. Use a fixed pairing system if workers have to be in close proximity. For example, during 2-person assembly or maintenance.

  7. Allocate the same workers to a household where jobs are repetitive. Introduce fixed pairing to have the same individuals allocated to a household for repetitive jobs.

3.3 Appointments in the home

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

Steps that will usually be needed:

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

  2. Make sure only necessary participants physically attend appointments. When they do, they should maintain social distancing guidelines. These are 2m, or 1m+ with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable.

  3. Avoid transmission during appointments caused by sharing objects. For example pens, documents.

  4. Hold meetings outdoors whenever possible. Otherwise use rooms where there is good ventilation.

    This could be:

    – fresh air through open doors, windows and vents
    – mechanical ventilation, such as air conditioning

  5. Air rooms between meetings. Open all the doors and windows as fully as possible to maximise the ventilation in the room. 

3.4 Accidents, security and other incidents

Objective: To prioritise safety during incidents.

In emergencies, you do not have to socially distance if that would be unsafe. Examples include:

  • accidents
  • fires
  • break-ins
  • when you’re giving first-aid

Whenever giving help during emergencies, pay particular attention to sanitation straight afterwards. This includes washing hands.

You will usually need to:

  1. Review your incident and emergency procedures. Ensure they reflect social distancing principles, as far as possible.

  2. When you’re thinking of changing how you work, consider the possible security implications. Your changes may present new or altered security risks. These risks may need mitigations.

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.

You will usually need to:

  1. Give your workers information on how to operate safely in people’s homes, if you’re an employer or agency.

  2. Communicate with households before you arrive and when you arrive. Make sure they understand how to follow the social distancing and hygiene measures they should follow once work starts.

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.

You will usually need to:

  1. Clean work areas and equipment between uses. Use your usual cleaning products.

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

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

  4. If you’re cleaning after a known or suspected case of COVID-19, refer to the guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings.

  5. Maintain good ventilation in the work environment. Read advice on air conditioning and ventilation from HSE.

  6. Provide extra non recycling bins for workers and visitors to dispose of single use face coverings and PPE. You should refer to the guidance on how to dispose of personal or business waste, including face coverings and PPE.

5.2 Hygiene

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

You will usually need to:

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

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

  3. Clean regularly touched objects and surfaces, using your regular cleaning products. Do this 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.

You will usually need to:

  1. Ensure social distancing and hygiene measures are followed when supplies or tools have to be delivered to a home. For example, building supplies.

  2. Collect materials in bulk. This will reduce how often you need to visit shops to buy or collect materials.

  3. Remove waste in bulk if possible.

6. Personal protective equipment (PPE) and face coverings

In this section

6.1 Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Where you’re already using PPE in your work activity to protect against non-COVID-19 risks, you should keep doing so.

COVID-19 is a different type of risk to the risks you normally face in a workplace. You do not need to manage this risk by using PPE. You need to manage this risk through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering.

Do not encourage the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against COVID-19 unless you’re in a clinical setting or responding to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.

Unless you’re in a situation where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is very high, your risk assessment should reflect the fact that PPE has an extremely limited role in providing extra protection.

If your risk assessment does show that PPE is required, you must provide this PPE free of charge to workers who need it. Any PPE provided must fit properly.

6.2 Face coverings

A face covering is something which safely covers 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. Face coverings are not the same as the PPE used to manage risks like dust and spray in an industrial context.

Face coverings are not a replacement for the other ways of managing risk. These include:

  • minimising time spent in contact
  • using fixed teams and partnering for close-up work
  • increasing hand and surface washing

These measures remain the best ways of managing risk in the workplace. We would not expect to see employers relying on face coverings as risk management for the purpose of their health and safety assessments.

People may wear a face visor or shield in addition to a face covering but not instead of one. This is because face visors or shields do not adequately cover the nose and mouth, and do not filter airborne particles.

Find more information on when and where to wear face coverings.

People are encouraged to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces, where there are people they do not normally meet.

It is important to use face coverings properly. If you choose to wear one, you should wash your hands before putting them on and before and after taking them off.

Some people don’t have to wear a face covering including for health, age or equality reasons.

You should support your workers in using face coverings safely if they choose to wear one. You should tell them to:

  • wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting on face coverings. They should also do this before and after removing them avoid touching their faces or face coverings. Otherwise they could contaminate them with germs from their hands
  • change their face coverings if they become damp or they’ve touched them
  • continue to wash their hands regularly
  • change and wash their face coverings daily
  • if the material is washable, to wash it in line with manufacturer’s instructions. If it’s not washable, to dispose of it carefully in their usual waste
  • practise social distancing wherever possible

Be aware that face coverings may make it harder to communicate with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound.

7. Workforce management: guidance for employers and agencies

In this section

7.1 Team working and outbreaks

7.1.1 Team working and working groups

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

You will usually need to:

  1. Create fixed teams of workers who carry out their duties in those teams and minimise contact between each team. Do this whenever multiple workers are in a home.

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

  3. Take into account the particular circumstances of people with different protected characteristics. These include disability, maternity and religion. Consider how they may be impacted by shift patterns and measures to reduce people flow.

  4. Allocate the same worker to the same household each time there is a visit. For example, the same cleaner each time.

7.1.2 Supporting NHS Test and Trace

Objective: To support NHS Test and Trace.

You should assist NHS Test and Trace. Do this by keeping a temporary record of:

  • all staff working on your premises
  • staff shift times on a given day
  • staff contact details

You should keep this data for 21 days and give this data to NHS Test and Trace if they ask for it. Your efforts could help contain clusters or outbreaks.

Check what data you need to collect and how it should be managed.

7.1.3 Outbreaks in the workplace

Objective: To provide guidance if there is a COVID-19 outbreak in your workplace.

You will usually need to:

  1. Make sure your risk assessment includes an up-to-date plan in case there is a COVID-19 outbreak. This plan should nominate a single point of contact (SPOC) where possible. The SPOC should lead on contacting local Public Health teams. 

  2. Contact your local PHE health protection team if you have had an outbreak and need further guidance. Find your local PHE health protection team.

  3. If your local PHE health protection team declares an outbreak, you will be asked to:

    – record details of symptomatic staff
    – assist with identifying contacts

    You should therefore ensure all employment records are up to date. You will be provided with information about the outbreak management process.

    – This will help you to:

    – implement control measures
    – assist with communications to staff
    –reinforce prevention messages

7.2 Work-related travel

7.2.1 Cars, accommodation and visits

Objective: To avoid unnecessary work travel. To keep people safe when they do need to travel between locations.

You will usually need to:

  1. Follow the social distancing guidelines outlined in Section 3.1 –‘Coming to and leaving a home for work’.

  2. Where workers need to move between different homes and locations to complete their work, consider social distancing and hygiene advice. This is especially important before entering other homes.

  3. Walk or cycle where possible. If that is not possible, you can use public transport or drive. You must wear a face covering when using public transport.

  4. Provide adequate ventilation by switching on ventilation systems that draw in fresh air or opening windows (partially if it’s cold). Avoid sitting face-to-face. For more information on ventilation in vehicles read HSE guidance on ventilation and air conditioning.

  5. Where workers are required to stay away from their home, centrally log their stays. Make 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 COVID-19 related safety procedures.

You will usually need to:

  1. Communicate clearly, consistently, and regularly. They will improve understanding and consistency of ways of working among your workers.

  2. Engage workers and worker representatives through your normal channels. Do this to explain and agree to any changes in how you work.

  3. Use simple, clear messaging to explain guidelines. Use images and clear language. You should consider people:

    – who do not have English as their first language
    – who have protected characteristics, for example, visual impairments

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.

You will usually need to:

  1. Engage with workers on an ongoing basis. This includes dealing with trade unions, or employee representative groups. Do this to monitor and understand any unforeseen impacts of changes to working environments.

  2. Be aware of and focus on mental health. Mental health is important, especially during times of uncertainty. The government has published guidance on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of COVID-19.

  3. Use simple, clear messaging to explain guidelines. Use images and clear language.

    –You should consider people:

    – who do not have English as their first language
    –who have protected characteristics, for example, visual impairments

  4. Communicate your approaches and operational procedures to households before work starts to help people adopt them.

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. Minimise contact during deliveries wherever possible.

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

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

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

  5. Minimise contact during payments and exchange of documentation. For example, use electronic payment methods and electronically signed and exchanged documents.

9. Tests and vaccinations

In this section

It’s important that you continue to put measures in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. These include:  

  • maintaining social distancing 
  • frequent cleaning 
  • good hygiene 
  • adequate ventilation 

This is important even if your workers have:

  • received a recent negative test result
  • had the vaccine (either 1 or 2 doses)

Where you’re providing testing on-site, you should ensure that workplace testing is carried out in a safe manner and in an appropriate setting where control measures are in place to manage the risk of COVID-19 transmission during the testing process. These include:

  • maintaining social distancing 
  • frequent cleaning 
  • good hygiene 
  • adequate ventilation

You should also ensure that an appropriate setting is available for individuals to wait in while their test is processed. 

9.1 Accessing testing

Anyone with coronavirus symptoms can get a free NHS test.

If you registered your business for free test kits before 12 April 2021, you can order free rapid lateral flow tests to test employees with no COVID-19 symptoms until 30 June 2021.

If you did not register, you can pay an approved provider to provide tests or run a test site. Read guidance on getting COVID-19 tests for your employees.

Employees who do not have symptoms of COVID-19 can access testing free of charge at home or at a test site. Read [guidance on accessing tests if you do not have symptoms of COVID-19].

Regular testing, alongside control measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, will have a key role to play in the future. Regular testing could help identify more positive cases of COVID-19 in the workplace. Read further guidance on your options for workplace testing or call 119 for more information. 

Where to find more information