Draft plans leaked for UK workplaces to ease coronavirus lockdown

4 May 2020, 09:27

The draft guidelines were compiled by BEIS
The draft guidelines were compiled by BEIS. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Stopping hot-desking and staggering shifts are among measures reportedly being considered to help businesses reopen according to leaked reports.

With the UK in coronavirus lockdown since March 23 and strict social-distancing measures in place to help halt the spread of the virus, the Government plans for workplaces to reopen have now been seen.

But business bosses have called clarity, asking for clear guidance" on whether employers need to provide personal protective equipment (PPE).

A draft government proposal to ease the lockdown restrictions has been seen by several news outlets, the plans urge managers to reduce the number of staff using equipment, keep lifts half empty, and close staff canteens.

Staggered shift times, less sharing of equipment and continued maximisation of home working are among a number of ideas listed as part of a draft government strategy to help businesses prepare for a return to work.

The Financial Times reported the proposals are part of a list of guidelines in seven documents developed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The measures are believed to form part of the Prime Minister's road map on how the country will begin to exit lockdown measures, which Boris Johnson is expected to announce on Sunday.

Read more: What could businesses look like after lockdown?

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The draft report suggested employers should ask staff to avoid sharing pens and office equipment and encourage the use of virtual meetings.

Employers may have to provide additional parking spaces and public transport services could be increased up to reduce the number of commuters confined closely together in cars, trains or buses.

The FT also reported social distancing should be enforced by the use of 2-metre apart tape on floors.

A section of the report marked PPE contains only a promise that "more detail" will follow, the BBC said.

Under the proposed plans companies will have to create a Covid-19 "risk assessment" before staff are allowed to return to work.

Businesses are calling for clarity on whether they can be held liable even if they fulfil their obligations to protect employees from coronavirus when the lockdown is eased.

Director general of the British Chambers of Commerce Adam Marshall said the issue is one of the "key questions we've asked" after draft Government plans surfaced.

He said: "We need as much specificity as possible so businesses can ensure they've taken all the steps they can in order to protect their people.

"And as much as possible we want to see consistency across the UK it would be very confusing and costly for businesses if we saw different nations going in very different directions.

"They (bosses) will want to know that they're not going to be held liable to horrible things that may, unfortunately, happen if they've done everything in their power to keep their people safe.

"Whereas by contrast, you'd want to see those employers who didn't take adequate steps face the consequences of that so the question of legal liability is extremely important."

Mr Marshall called for "clear guidance" on whether employers need to provide personal protective equipment (PPE).

"No business wants to be competing with the health services or with the care sector, for example, for PPE," he told Today.

"We're still waiting for more detail on that and it's going to be hugely, hugely important for a lot of firms because the number of questions we're hearing from businesses about protective equipment grows by the day."