In this section:
1.1 How to do a COVID-19 risk assessment
As an employer, you must protect people from harm. This includes taking reasonable steps to protect your workers and others from coronavirus. Considering these risks and how to manage them is called a COVID-19 risk assessment and it will help you manage risk and protect people.
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.
While you cannot completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19, you need to think about the risks your staff and others face and do everything reasonably practicable to minimise them. Your risk assessment will help you decide whether you have done everything you need to.
How to do a COVID-19 risk assessment:
COVID-19 is a hazard in the workplace and should be managed 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 and identifying control measures to manage that risk. If you have fewer than 5 workers, or are self-employed, you don’t have to put your risk assessment in writing, but it can be useful to do so.
The Health and Safety Executive has published information on how to do a COVID-19 risk assessment, and you can also find more resources in their general advice on managing risk and risk assessments.
In your risk assessment you should:
- identify what work activity or situations might cause transmission of the virus
- think about who could be at risk
- decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed
- act to remove the activity or situation, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk
Your COVID-19 risk assessment should include an up-to-date plan for what you will do in the event of an outbreak in your workplace. This includes nominating a member of staff as the single point of contact (SPOC) who will contact local Public Health teams. You can find more information and resources on handling outbreaks in the section on COVID-19 cases or outbreaks in the workplace.
Your risk assessment should also take into account the impact of your policies on groups who have protected characteristics, and to those who are more at risk of being infected with COVID-19 or have a higher risk of serious illness. You can find more information in the section on protecting people at higher risk.
Consulting your workers
Employers have a duty to consult their 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 could consult 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.
Employers and workers should always come together to resolve issues.
If concerns still cannot be resolved, you or your workers can contact your employee representative, or your trade union if you have one.
You can also contact HSE’s COVID-19 enquiries team:
1.2 Key actions to include
As an employer, you have a duty to reduce workplace risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures. You should make sure your risk assessment includes the following key action areas, as well as any risks and issues specific to your organisation, so that everybody’s health and safety is protected.
Remember that a risk assessment is not a fixed document, and you should update it when risks change or new issues occur. You must also review the measures you have put in place to make sure they are working, if there are changes to the law or government guidance which affect your workplace, or if there are changes in the workplace that could lead to new risks.
Key points to consider in your risk assessment:
Ensure that workers, customers and visitors who feel unwell do not come to the workplace. By law, businesses must not require a self-isolating worker to work anywhere other than where they are self-isolating (normally their home). See the section on who should go to the workplace for more information.
Remind customers, visitors and staff to wear face coverings where they are required (e.g. by putting up signs). It is a legal requirement for staff and customers to wear face coverings in certain settings such as retail and hospitality venues, unless an exemption applies. In these settings, businesses also have a legal duty to remind people to wear face coverings. See the section on face coverings and PPE for more information.
Increase the frequency of cleaning for higher-risk areas (such as surfaces) and encourage frequent hand washing. See the section on managing your facility for more information.
Make every reasonable effort to ensure your staff can work safely. This includes consideration of reasonable adjustments for employees or customers with disabilities, including hidden disabilities that are not immediately obvious. This also includes following government guidance on whether staff should work from home. For those who can’t work from home, ensuring that COVID-secure guidance is closely followed in the workplace. See the section on who should go to the workplace for more information.
Ensure that social distancing can be maintained within your facility. COVID-secure measures, including social distancing guidance, continue to apply in the workplace, and in businesses and public venues. You should calculate the number of people that can be accommodated in your facility with social distancing (2 metres distance from others, or at least 1m with additional control measures where 2m is not possible) in place. Where social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full for a particular activity, consider redesigning the activity or taking further steps (such as using fixed teams or putting up screens) to mitigate risk. See the section on managing your workforce for more information.
Assess the risk levels of relevant activities (and any mitigations you put in place), to determine whether the activities can safely go ahead. If a high-risk activity (such as working face-to-face for a sustained period) cannot be redesigned, consider whether the activity needs to continue for the business to operate and take all mitigating actions possible to reduce the risks. Nobody is obliged to work in an unsafe environment, so you should take steps to keep your staff safe and take into account the impact on people with higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. See the section on managing your workforce for more information.
Consider the risks arising from periods of closure. If your building is unoccupied or has reduced occupancy during a period of restrictions, you should take steps to manage any risks that could arise when reopening (for example, by reviewing HSE’s guidance on the risk of legionella). See the section on reopening after a period of closure for more information.
Ensure you are providing adequate ventilation where people are in enclosed spaces. This can be natural ventilation (through opening doors, windows and vents), mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, or a combination of both. You can find more information in the section on ventilation and the HSE guidance on ventilation and air conditioning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1.3 How to share your risk assessment
You should share the results of your risk assessment to show your workers and customers that you have properly assessed the risk levels and taken appropriate mitigating measures.
What you should do:
Share the results of your risk assessment with your workforce
If possible, consider publishing the results on your website (and we would expect all businesses with more than 50 staff to do so)
Display the COVID-secure notice (below) in your workplace, to show you have followed this guidance
Download the COVID-secure notice for your workplace.
1.4 COVID-19 cases or outbreaks in the workplace
You should ensure you and any relevant staff (such as managers or supervisors) are aware of the steps to take if there is a case or outbreak of COVID-19 in your workplace.
What you should do:
Ensure you have an up-to-date plan setting out the steps to take if there is a COVID-19 outbreak in your workplace or facility. This includes designating a single point of contact (SPOC) who will lead on contacting local Public Health teams.
Contact your local PHE health protection team if you’ve had an outbreak and need further guidance. Find your local PHE health protection team.
If the local PHE health protection team declares an outbreak, you will be asked to record details of symptomatic staff and 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, which will help you to implement control measures, assist with communications to staff, and reinforce prevention messages.
1.5 NHS Test & Trace
The rules on what you need to do when a group enters your venue have changed.
If this applies to your facility, you must ask every customer or visitor aged 16 and over to scan the NHS QR code using their NHS COVID-19 app or provide their name and contact details, not just a lead member of the group. This is to ensure everyone receives the necessary public health advice in a timely manner.
You can find more information in the guidance on NHS Test and Trace.
Many sport and leisure facilities are required to keep a record of all visitors, customers and staff on the premises, to support NHS Test and Trace.
- indoor sport facilities
- gyms and leisure centres
- clubs providing team sport activities
- outdoor swimming pools and lidos
- sport and massage therapists
- services provided for social and recreational purposes in youth and community centres and village halls
- hospitality venues (such as pubs, restaurants, cafes and bars) within a sport facility
However this does not apply to all facilities (for example, it does not apply to outdoor sport club activity in public places where it is not possible or practical to collect information from all spectators), so you should check the NHS Test and Trace guidance to see if this applies to you.
Where this applies, you must collect contact details from all visitors and customers aged 16 or over (unless an exemption applies, such as people only visiting your site to make a delivery) as well as all staff. You must also display an official NHS QR code poster so that customers and visitors can ‘check in’ using this option as an alternative to providing their contact details. You do not have to ask people who choose to ‘check in’ using the official NHS QR code to provide their contact details. However, you must still have a system to collect (and securely store) names and contact details for those who prefer to provide their information, or do not have access to a smartphone. You do not need to ask customers to do both, nor do you need to verify an individual’s details or identity. You can find more guidance (including advice on how to collect contact information, and the information you need to collect) in the NHS Test and Trace guidance.
You need to keep these records for 21 days and make them available when requested by NHS Test and Trace or local public health officials, to help contain clusters or outbreaks.
Hospitality venues (such as pubs, bars, restaurants and cafés) have additional requirements and must also take reasonable steps to refuse entry to anyone who refuses to participate. This requirement applies to any establishment that provides an on-site service and to any events that take place on its premises. It does not apply where services are taken off-site immediately, such as kiosks or bars on concourses which only provide takeaway food and drinks. If a business offers a mixture of a sit-in and takeaway service, contact information only needs to be sought for customers who are dining in. This could be asked for at the counter, rather than the point of entry, when servers can more easily ask the customer whether they are dining in or taking away. You can find more information on measures for hospitality venues in the guidance for restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services.
Other types of venues do not need to refuse entry to those that do not wish to participate, but you have a legal duty to ask all customers and visitors to take part.
If your site contains several individual venues, you as the wider venue operator are still required to collect details of staff, customers and visitors at the main entrance.
If your business is within a larger venue, you are only required to collect details of customers, visitors and staff in addition to the main entrance if you are a hospitality service, (such as a cafe within a stately home or castle). Other types of businesses are not required to collect details, when they exist within a larger premises already required to collect details.
You can find more guidance (including the rules for different settings) in the NHS Test and Trace guidance.
What you must do:
Ask every customer or visitor aged 16 and over to provide their name and contact details.
Keep a record of all staff working on your premises and shift times on a given day, and their contact details.
Keep these records of customers, visitors and staff for 21 days and provide data to NHS Test and Trace if requested.
Display an official NHS QR code poster, so that customers and visitors can ‘check in’ using this option, as an alternative to providing their contact details. Have a system to collect (and securely store) names and contact details for those who do not have access to a smartphone or prefer not to use the app.
Ensure you manage this information in line with data protection regulations.
This is a legal requirement and failure to comply is punishable by fines. You can find out more about these requirements in the NHS Test and Trace guidance.
1.6 Who should go to the workplace
Anyone who can work from home should do so. If it is unreasonable for people to work from home, they can go to their place of work.
You should review your business or facility management plans and consult your employees to determine who needs to come into the workplace, giving extra consideration to those people at higher risk.
What you should do:
Consider the maximum number of people who can be safely accommodated on the site.
Monitor the wellbeing of staff who are working from home and help them to stay connected to the rest of the workforce, especially if the majority of their colleagues are on-site.
Keep in touch with off-site workers on their working arrangements, including their welfare, physical and mental health and personal security.
Provide equipment to allow staff to work from home safely and effectively, such as remote access to work systems. Consider how best to account for different types of needs, including the needs of people with disabilities.
1.7 Protecting people who are at higher risk
There are some groups who are at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus, who may be advised to take extra precautions to protect themselves. See guidance on who is at higher risk from coronavirus 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 coronavirus restrictions which apply to everyone.
Clinically extremely vulnerable people are advised to work from home where possible but 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.
1.8 People who need to self-isolate
All businesses are prohibited from requiring self-isolating workers to come into work.
If you are made aware of a worker needing to self-isolate, you must ensure that they do not come to the workplace. It is against the law for you to knowingly require or encourage someone who is required to self-isolate to come to the workplace. This includes people with a positive test, people who are advised to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app, and people required to self-isolate in relation to travel.
1.9 Equality in the workplace
When you are applying this guidance, you should be mindful of the particular needs of different groups of workers or individuals. For instance, employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to avoid disabled workers being put at a disadvantage compared to non-disabled people in the workplace.
It is breaking the law to discriminate, directly or indirectly, against anyone because of a protected characteristic such as age, ethnicity, sex or disability.
Employers also have particular responsibilities towards disabled workers and those who are new or expectant mothers.
What you should do:
Take steps to understand the particular circumstances of those with different protected characteristics, and take them into account in your working safely policies.
Involve and communicate appropriately with staff 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.
Measures such as social distancing may not be possible or will be more challenging for workers with certain disabilities, such as individuals in wheelchairs or with vision impairments. You should discuss with disabled employees what reasonable adjustments can be made to the workplace so they can work safely.
Consider whether you need to put in place any particular measures or adjustments to take account of your duties under the equalities legislation.
Make reasonable adjustments to avoid disabled staff being put at a disadvantage, and assess the health and safety risks for new or expectant mothers.
Make 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.
1.10 Testing and vaccinations
It’s important that you continue to put measures in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, including maintaining social distancing where possible, frequent cleaning, good hygiene and adequate ventilation, even if your employees have:
- received a recent negative test result
- had the vaccine (either 1 or 2 doses)
About 1 in 3 people with coronavirus do not have symptoms but can still infect others. You can reduce the risk of the virus spreading by asking your employees to get tested regularly.
Where you are 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 where possible, frequent cleaning, good hygiene and adequate ventilation. You should also ensure that an appropriate setting is available for individuals to wait in while their test is processed.
Anyone with symptoms should get a free NHS test as soon as possible.
Ordering COVID-19 tests for employees with no coronavirus symptoms
If you registered for workplace testing before 12 April 2021, you can continue to order free rapid lateral flow tests until 30 June 2021.
If you did not register, you can choose to:
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