Employers must take steps to keep their employees safe, says law firm partner 

All employers have a continuing legal duty to provide a safe place of work for employees and manage risk effectively for their company.

This is according to Charles Urquhart, partner at law firm Clyde and Co, who told Insurance Times: “All employers – including those in the insurance industry – have a legal duty to provide a safe place of work and manage risks to those affected by their business.

“With Covid-19 and other respiratory illnesses such as the flu putting additional pressure on the NHS, employers will need to strike a balance between keeping workers safe, meeting business needs and living with Covid-19 and the flu over the coming weeks.”

The comments follow reports that a series of measures could be introduced by the UK government to mitigate the spread of viruses, such as the reintroduction of face coverings in public places, new social distancing guidance and working from home.

Last week (10 January 2023), the UK government announced that it would be testing airport arrivals from China for new strains of Covid-19.

Various news outlets, including inews and the Daily Mail, also reported that official government sources were potentially considering introducing last-ditch measures to protect the NHS by advising mask wearing on public transport and working from home

On 2 January, the UK’s Health Security Agency also released a back to school update for parents that warned Covid-19 and other viruses were circulating “at high levels”.

Claims risk

High levels of virus circulation, including flu and scarlet fever during the winter cold snap, are putting the NHS under further strain.

Urquhart explained: “Employers should consider what steps they will take to keep employees safe – taking into account the current guidance for employers – and should keep an eye out for any updates to it over the coming weeks.

“Some steps employers can take to help reduce the spread of respiratory infections include maintaining a clean workplace and improving ventilation.

“In relation to masks and social distancing, employers should support employees who wish to wear a facemask at work and look out for any updated guidance on extra steps the government recommends helping reduce the spread of respiratory illness, such as social distancing.

“Taking an approach that goes against the guidance could put employers at risk of claims and other employee issues.”

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