Coronavirus Update Statement.
At Val Wade Recruitment Ltd we take the health and safety of all our staff extremely seriously – in line with our work place policies (http://valwade-recruitment.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Health-and-Safety-Policy-2020.pdf). With the UK starting to ease restrictions and is slowly moving out of lockdown, we felt it prudent to update our clients and candidates that we are instigating some processes in line with Government guidelines, that will help mitigate this risk to our company, our workforce and the organisations that we work with.
- Working flexibly from home – will help to reduce the risk of infection for employees who must use public transport to travel to and from work. We will regularly check in with our employees that are working from home, to protect their well-being and ensure that they remain in contact with their colleagues. Our employees will have the necessary equipment to work safely and effectively at home.
2. Self Isolation Obligations – Our candidates are legally required to self-isolate in line with the regulations if they;• have tested positive for COVID-19, or• they have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 andemployees to whom this applies, must notify Val Wade Recruitment that they are required to self-isolate, and provide Val Wade Recruitment (VWR) with the dates the self-isolation period will start and end.
Once VWR have been notified/made aware, we will stop the employee/candidate from attending any place other than their “designated place” to self – isolate. This would mean stopping “Designated place” according to the regulations means: • Your employee’s home • The home of a friend or family member of your employee’s; or • Bed and breakfast accommodation (arranged under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999) or other suitable place. It is deemed an offence if the employee/candidate does not follow these provisions. Failure to comply, could result in a fixed penalty notice being issued. The cost for failing to comply are as follows: •First fixed penalty notice issued: £1000 •Second fixed penalty notice issued: £2000 •Third fixed penalty notice issued: £4000 •Fourth fixed penalty notice issued (and any other subsequent to this): £10000
If an employee fails to notify VWR that they are legally required to self-isolate this is deemed a separate offence and they could also be issued with a fixed penalty notice of up to £10,000 for non-compliance in accordance with the regulations.
VWR will also ensure that employees who have symptoms of COVID-19, or who live with someone who has symptoms of COVID-19, are self-isolating in line with Government guidance. This also includes persons who are in the same support bubble group.
3. Returning to work premises – Our clients must ensure that they have properly assessed and managed the risks of COVID-19 before re-opening their premises to their employees and visitors. This is because they are legally obliged to protect our employees from any risks which may compromise their health and safety. Failing to complete a risk assessment which factors in COVID-19 and any high-risk groups, or failing to put adequate measures in place to manage the risk of COVID-19, could amount to a breach of health and safety law.
The Government advises that we also where appropriate:
• develop communication and training materials prior to returning to the site, especially around new procedures for arrival at work
• providing clear, consistent and regular communication to improve understanding and consistency of ways working • engage with workers through existing communication routes and worker representatives to explain and agree any changes in working arrangements.
• plan for a phased return to work for people safely and effectively.
Although it is not a legal requirement to do so, the Government expect companies/organisations to publish the results of your risk assessment on your website – particularly if your business has 50 or more employees. They have created a notice which they advise should be displayed at your premises. Please see a copy of the ‘Staying COVID-19 Secure in 2020’ notice on the Government website
- Cleaning your offices/premises – In accordance with Government guidance, before you reopen your premises you should ensure that it has already been thoroughly cleaned and ready for use. Your ventilator systems should be checked and adjusted if necessary and windows and doors should be opened to increase ventilation. Hand sanitiser; and plenty of it; should also be readily available.
To minimise the potential spread of COVID-19 at your premises, you should also ensure that the premises are regularly cleaned both daily and weekly. This includes regular usage of cleaning products to clean work stations between different occupants, surfaces, shared equipment/objects, doorknobs. The Government encourage you to use signs and posters to build awareness of correct handwashing techniques, including frequent handwashing and cleaning guidance when using the restrooms – as well as maintaining social distancing. Hand sanitiser should be regularly used by the entire workforce whilst on the premises.
More waste facilities, rubbish disposals and drying facilities are also encouraged. It is also advised that you regularly remove waste from your premises, clear desks and ensure that employees take their belongings with them at the end of the day.
If you have changing rooms or showers or lockers on site, the Government recommend that you set out clear use and cleaning guidance available as well as cleaning facilities – whilst ensuring social distancing is maintained.
Contamination and transmission could also enter the premises through regular touching and contact with vehicles on site. To reduce potential spread, the Government advise that there should be:
• Cleaning procedures for goods and merchandise entering the site
• Cleaning procedures for vehicles
• More handwashing and more handwashing facilities for workers handling goods and merchandise
• Regular cleaning of vehicles that workers may take home
• Restriction of non-business deliveries, i.e. personal deliveries to your employees.
- Apply the two-metre social distancing rule (or a one-metre distance with risk mitigation)– Where appropriate our clients must take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure that social distancing measures are in place for employees working at your premises, including at entrances, exits, in meeting rooms etc. To achieve this the Government advise that you consider:
• Staggering employee start times
• Creating one-way walk-throughs with markings
• Opening more entrance and exists; and/or
• Creating seating layouts in break rooms.
• Using remote working tools to avoid in-person meetings
• Avoiding the use of hot desks and spaces where possible.
If it is difficult to maintain a 2-metre distance, (or a one-metre distance with risk mitigation), due to a particular activity, it may be prudent to discontinue the activity if the business can operate without it. If this is not possible, the Government advise that you lessen the risks by:
• Using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
• Using back-to-back or side-to-side working where possible
• Reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed trams or partnering’
• Using floor tape or paint to mark areas to help people comply with social distancing
• Keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
• Further increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning.
Increased handwashing should be the norm for all employees, particularly when arriving at the work premises. You should ensure that all of your employees comply with this to mitigate risk.
When moving around the premises, social distancing should also be maintained where possible. The Government advise that you:
• Reduce movement by discouraging non-essential trips within buildings and sites, e.g. restricted access to some areas, encouraging the use of telephones or other electronic devices, where permitted, and cleaning them between us.
• Reducing job and location rotation
• Reducing maximum occupancy for lifts, providing hand sanitiser for the operation of lifts, and encouraging the use of stairs wherever possible
• Making sure that people with disabilities are able to access lifts
• Managing the use of high traffic areas including corridors and lifts turnstiles
- Use of PPE and face coverings – Continual usage of existing PPE to protect employees against risks which are not related to the coronavirus is advised. The Government state however that additional PPE used for the purposes of managing COVID-19 is not beneficial in the workplace – unless in a clinical setting or for roles where it is deemed necessary by the relevant Public Health Authority in England, Scotland or Wales. Greater emphasis is placed on proper social distancing measures, increased hygiene and reduced contact.
If additional PPE does become a requirement, you are obliged to provide properly fitted PPE to employees for free. (For PPE for temps on a contract for services, please see paragraph 4.1.2 below).
Face coverings – Government guidance states that that there is growing evidence that wearing a face covering in an enclosed space can help to protect individuals and those around them from COVID-19. Face coverings have also become mandatory in certain settings.
Face coverings could therefore be beneficial in the workplace, if an employee has caught COVID-19 but has not yet developed symptoms. Additionally, if social distancing is not possible due to confined spaces, a face covering which covers the mouth and nose can be worn by other employees. The Government have however stressed, that face coverings should not be used as a substitute for the other more effective ways of managing workplace risks.
If your employees do choose to wear one, you should support them by telling them to avoid touching their faces, to continue washing their hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, use hand sanitiser, change face coverings and/or wash them daily – whilst maintaining social distancing where possible. Additionally, you should provide extra non-recycling bins for your employees and visitors for the disposal of single use face coverings. Please see Coronavirus (COVID-19): disposing of waste for further information.
Do bear in mind, that face coverings in the workplace may make communication difficult for employees who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound.
- Managing third party visits – It is advised that you minimise the number of visitors coming to your office – particularly if it is not mandatory for you to see them in person. The Government advise that you control this by following the recommended steps which are:
• Asking visitors to wear face coverings where required to do so by law
• Encouraging visits via remote connection/working where this is an option
• Explaining site guidance on social distancing and hygiene to visitors on or before arrival
• Limiting the number of visitors at any one time
• Limiting visitor times to a specific time window and restricting access to required visitors only
• Determining if schedules for essential services and contractor visits can be revised to reduce interaction and overlap between people, i.e. carrying services at night
• Maintaining a record of all visitors, if this is practical; and
• Revising visitor arrangements to ensure social distancing and hygiene.
The guidance is particularly relevant to your existing candidates and new candidates who register with you. You should utilise online communication, interviewing with your candidates etc. as much as possible. (Please see “Supplying candidates to your clients” on page 8.)
- Outbreaks in the workplace – In light of Government guidance, to further mitigate the risks of COVID-19 and prevent an outbreak in the workplace, you should ensure that any employees who begin exhibiting COVID-19 related symptoms onsite, i.e. a new and persistent cough, a high temperature and a loss of taste and smell, are sent home as soon as possible, and are told to self-isolate in line with Government guidance. This measure should also be taken for employees who live in the same household as a person who is exhibiting COVID-19 related symptoms.
In line with your risk assessments, you should also have an up to date plan to cover a COVID-19 outbreak. The Government advise that you nominate a single point of contact where possible, who should lead on contacting local Public Health teams. Should there be more than one COVID-19 incident at your workplace, you will need to contact your local PHE health protection team to report the suspected outbreak.
If your local PHE health protection team affirms an outbreak, they will ask you to record details of the employees who are symptomatic, and will ask you to assist with identifying contacts. It is important for your employment records to be up to date. Information about the outbreak management process will be given to you to help you put control measures in place, strengthen prevention messages and assist with communications to your employees.
For further information on the above and for additional information, please see the Government ’s guidance for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments.
- Tests and vaccinations – Safety measures in the workplace must continue even if some (if not all) of your employees have received the COVID-19 vaccine, or have been tested for COVID-19 and have received a negative test result. In accordance with Government guidance, anyone who exhibits at least one of the COVID-19 symptoms which are:
• a new, continuous cough;
• a high temperature; and
• a loss of sense of smell and taste- or has changed.
Additionally, as an employer, you can also register to order rapid lateral flow tests for employees who are not exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms if:
• your business is registered in England;
• you employ 50 people or more; and
• your employees cannot work from home.
To register, please see the: Register to order coronavirus tests for your employees’ page on the Government website.
- Supplying candidates to our clients – Our current legal obligations when supplying a temporary worker to our clients remain unchanged. We are still required under the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 (Conduct Regulations), to obtain certain health and safety information before we supply candidates to our clients.
• Ensure that we’ve asked all reasonably practicable questions to ensure that neither the worker nor the client are put at a detriment if our worker works for our client in the position in question.
• Ensure that we ask our client for information about and any risks to health or safety known to them and what steps they have taken to prevent or control such risks. You must provide this information to your temporary workers when you offer them the assignment.
• Obtain information regarding training which they consider as necessary, or required by law, or any professional for a worker to possess, in order to work in the position.
Our client might provide training/induction for workers when on site but Government guidance states that any COVID-19 training/preventative measures should be developed and given to employees prior to a return, so get a copy and give it to your candidates so they can understand the COVID-19 safety procedures before they start. The Government have advised that we minimise the number of visitors coming to our office – particularly if it is not mandatory for you to see them in person – including our existing candidates and new candidates who register
- Right to work checks – On the 30th March 2020, the Government announced that right to work checks have been changed temporarily due to COVID -19. The temporary changes mean that:
• Checks can now be carried out over video calls
• Job applicants and existing workers can send scanned documents or a photo of documents for checks using email or a mobile app, rather than sending originals
• Employers should use the Employer Checking Service if a prospective or existing employee cannot provide any of the accepted documents.
The above changes will help us carry out the requisite right to work checks without our candidates having to show the originals in person thereby minimising face to face interviews /meetings and unnecessary visits.
- If a candidate has to come into our office – If it does become necessary for a candidate to visit our premises, we will notify our candidates ahead of time that if they:
• Have COVID-19 symptoms; or
• Live with someone who has COVID-19 symptoms they should not attend any interviews/meetings in person and should follow Government guidance to self-isolate.
• Explain site guidance on social distancing and hygiene to them on or before arrival;
• Limit the number of candidates at any one time;
• Limit candidate times to a specific time window and restrict access to required candidates only;
• Determine if schedules for essential services and contractor visits can be revised to reduce interaction and overlap between people, i.e. carrying services at night
• Maintain a record of all candidates, if this is practical;
• Revise candidate arrangements to ensure social distancing and hygiene;
• Establish host responsibilities relating to COVID-19 and provide any necessary training for people who act as hosts for our candidates;
• Review entry and exit routes for candidates to minimise contact with other people; and
• Coordinate and work collaboratively with landlords and other tenants in multi-tenant sites, i.e. shared
- Risk limitation – After the registration/interview stage, ensure that we advise our candidates to notify us, or ask them whether they are exhibiting COVID- 19 related symptoms before considering them for any roles. The Government have advised that no matter how mild COVID-19 related symptoms are, self-isolation is required. If this is the case for any of our candidates, they cannot work and instead need to self-isolate in line with Government guidance (unless working from home is possible). For existing candidates, the same approach should be taken before putting them forward for any roles with your clients.
- Self isolation obligations – The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 (the Self-isolation Regulations) which came into force on 28 September 2020 states that agency workers have a legal duty to notify VWR of their requirement to self-isolate if they have tested positive for COVID-19, or have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. It is an offence, and punishable by a fixed penalty notice of up to £10,000 if they do not comply with this, without reasonable excuse.
15. During supply – working with our clients when our candidates are on assignment.
Our clients will bear much of the responsibility for our workers’ health and safety whilst they are on their site. However, there is a joint responsibility between us and our client under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 – we will still need to regularly liaise with our client to review and rectify any identifiable risks, as well as co-operate with each other to ensure that the health and safety of our temporary workers is adequately protected.
Agency workers also have a duty to assess any risks that may compromise their own health and safety whilst on the client’s site so they should be safeguarding their own health and safety. Agency workers whom you supply to your clients in England, also have a legal duty to inform you and/or your client if they test positive for COVID-19 during an assignment. Your agency workers will then be required to self-isolate and you and/or your client must stop them from attending the place of work -other than where they are required to self-isolate. This is until the self-isolation period ends. Failure of the agency worker to notify you, or failure for you/your client to take the requisite action once being made aware or notified, is deemed an offence under The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 and is punishable by way of a fixed penalty notice of up to £10,000.
- Supply of PPE to our temporary workers – In accordance with the PPE Regulations, if we are supplying temporary workers on a contract of employment (that is, where they are an employee) to our client, we will be their employer responsible for ensuring that suitable PPE is provided to them. You will also be responsible for paying for the PPE, in accordance with your obligations under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Ensure that you obtain the required information from your client regarding the exact PPE needed for the role. PPE Regulations recognise only two categories of persons – employees on a contract of employment and self-employed people – those not on a contract of employment. The worker category that most agency workers on a contract for services would fall into would be the self-employed category.
The PPE Regulations state that a self-employed person should ensure that they provide themselves with suitable PPE if they may be exposed to a risk of his/her health or safety at work, except in cases where such risks are adequately controlled by other means which are equally or more effective.
Temporary workers on a contract for services are not employees, and would therefore fall under the “self -employed” provision under the 1974 Act. However, sometimes a person’s employment status can be unclear or open to challenge. In addition, provisions in the Conduct Regulations mean that a joint approach should be taken by employment business and their clients to manage the health and safety of agency workers.
If PPE is required for a role, we are obligated to provide the necessary PPE to our temporary workers or arrange for it to be provided e.g. by our client.
We will liaise and agree with our client as to who will be providing and paying for the PPE, prior to an assignment. If we purchase PPE for our workers, we will agree with our client that the cost of it will be added to your client’s invoice bill. Alternatively, our client may agree to provide the PPE.
- The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) – guidance refers to the obligations placed upon clients and agencies to protect temporary workers and the need for both parties to work together.
The HSE guidance is reproduced below:
Health and Safety Executive – public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence Guidance for Users and Suppliers of Agency/Temporary workers.
In many cases the employment business will be the employer of the temporary worker, since it retains ultimate control over their services.
In practice, the day-to-day responsibility for health and safety during the assignment will lie with the end user. It will be in the best position to manage the health and safety of the temporary worker as it will direct the worker’s activities and control the premises where that work takes place. The end user must ensure the safety of its temporary workers, as it does that of its own employees.
The employment agency and the employment business however, must take reasonable steps to identify any known risks concerning health and safety and satisfy itself that the end user has taken steps to prevent or control the known risks. This must be done before the work starts and must include obtaining the following information from the end user:
• what the worker will be required to do and any health and safety risks, including what steps the end user has taken to prevent or control such risks;
• what experience, training and qualifications are necessary for the job.
Co-operation and communication between all those involved in using and supplying temporary workers is key to protecting their health and safety. Continuing to do so throughout the period of the assignment, including with the workers themselves, will help ensure that responsibilities are clear. It is important to agree who does what and not assume the ‘other side’ will take responsibility. This will mean working together to ensure you:
• provide the temporary worker with information on any risks of the work before the work starts, including the control measures in place and any health surveillance required;
• make workers aware of and check they have the necessary occupational qualifications or skills required to do the job safely before they start work;
• deliver adequate and sufficient information, instruction and training to enable temporary workers to work safely.
Health and safety training should take place during working hours and at no cost to the temporary worker, making sure they understand it;
•provide protective equipment, at no cost to the temporary worker, agreeing arrangements for supplying and maintaining it;
• ensure temporary workers know how to raise any health and safety concerns in the workplace.
If the end user provides the necessary information to the employment business, the employment business must pass it on to the worker. The employment business should not send the temporary worker to a job unless they are satisfied their health and safety will be protected. All those involved should carry out their work in such a way as to ensure the temporary worker is not exposed to health and safety risks. This may mean obtaining appropriate assurance from others in the supply/user chain, or it may mean taking responsibility to ensure the temporary worker is protected at work.