Lockdown 2.0 – Revenge Of The Zoom Call!
3 months ago
What Do Employers Need To Know?
The Scottish Government has put mainland Scotland into near full lockdown for a second time. While we have all experienced varying levels of restrictions through the tier system, this has not been enough to stop the new variant spreading at an increased and worrying rate. This means that we can all, once again, look forward to those cherished zoom meetings and quizzes that we have grown to hold so dearly…
The rules which have been implemented, whilst not quite as draconian as the first lockdown, are still significant. For now, all hospitality venues such as pubs, restaurants, bars and cafes must close but they can continue to provide takeaway services. Non-essential retail shops and leisure venues must also close. Businesses which are not required to close are known as Critical National Infrastructures (CNI’s) and these include sectors such as energy, communications, transport, finance, health and food among others (a full list can be found at https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-businesses-and-workplaces-that-must-close-and-can-open-at-each-protection-level/#businesses%20that%20can%20remain%20open).
The official position of the Scottish Government is that these businesses must ensure that, as far as possible, employees are working from home. A reduced number of staff are still permitted to work on site in order to maintain production and services and ensure the smooth running of the business.
The Government together with a number of external organisations including the Scottish Trades Union Congress released a Joint Statement on fair work back in July 2020 and the guidance is still applicable and even more important today. The statement highlighted six key principals:
- Employees should have effective voice channels, including through their trade unions, for maintaining constructive dialogue with their employers on workplace matters relating to COVID-19
- no worker should be financially penalised for following medical advice
- any absence relating to COVID-19 should not affect future sick pay entitlement or other entitlements like holiday or accrued time
- any absence related to COVID-19 should not result in formal attendance related warnings or be accumulated with non-COVID related absences in future absence management figures
- this may require flexibility in standard absence/attendance management arrangements
- this statement applies to workers who are sick or self-isolating under the Test and Protect strategy
Employers are also expected to create a COVID-19 risk assessment outlining their policies and procedures to reduce the risk of transmission inside the workplace. Such measures should include enabling people to work from home wherever possible, providing handwashing and hygiene procedures and taking all necessary steps to maintain the required 2-meter distance between people in the workplace. Employers should also consider the transport which their staff may be using to get to work. The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 has imposed a legal requirement on business owners to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their staff and minimise the risk of transmission.
Where employers are not managing the risk of COVID-19, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities are empowered to take disciplinary action ranging from the provision of specific advice, issuing enforcement notices, stopping certain work practices until they are made safe and in situations where businesses fail to comply with enforcement notices they may even be prosecuted.
If you are unsure about your responsibilities and rights as an employer or an employee during these strange and unprecedented times, contact us to see if we can help!
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