COVID-19: New workplace guidelines described as a “recipe for chaos” | Business news



New workplace guidelines released by the government just days before most of the remaining COVID rules were lifted in England have been criticized as a “recipe for chaos”.

Employers have been told they will no longer need to use social distancing as of Monday and that if possible, stop working from home, plan to gradually return over the summer.

However, the union federation TUC said the government had failed to provide the necessary clarity, while the directors’ institute said the guidelines had done little to dispel confusion among bosses.

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Reopening means transferring responsibility to individual companies – CBI

The guide provides advice to employers in various sectors and stresses that they still need to “take sensible steps to manage risk” in the workplaces and places where they work.

For example, it tells night club operators to consider using the NHS COVID passport to reduce the risk of virus transmission.

There is now no legal requirement for face-covering in offices and shops, but the government “expects and recommends that people continue to wear face-covering in crowded, enclosed spaces”.

For services like beauticians and hairdressers, employers are told that they “may choose to ask customers or employees to wear face-covering, especially if doctors are performing treatments that involve being in close proximity to the face, mouth and nose” .

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Carrier Go-Ahead: We do not insist on face covering unless directed to do so

Cabinet Secretary Robert Jenrick defended the government against allegations that the new guidelines would throw companies into chaos.

“We released guidelines today … and the guidelines reflect the wide variety of businesses across the country,” the secretary for housing, community and local government told Sky News.

“We say there will be some situations in which companies have the best of their ability to follow these guidelines.

“In my experience, having spoken to literally hundreds of companies over the past year, this is the kind of discretion they want – which reflects the fact that companies are in very different situations and have a unified approach – supported by the force of the law – does not make sense. “

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“One size doesn’t make sense”

Mr Jenrick said COVID restrictions are now “a matter of personal responsibility,” adding, “We ask every citizen to be careful and make reasonable judgments about wearing masks when in close contact indoors, for example.

“And also for companies that are considering whether they want and need to apply these restrictions.”

However, TUC Secretary General Frances O’Grady described the new guidelines as “a recipe for chaos and rising infections”.

“Instead of providing clear and consistent guidelines for employee safety at work, the government is failing workers and employers,” she added.

Ms. O’Grady said the guidelines would “leave many employers with more questions than answers and worries about their liability if they do something wrong”.

She added that wearing face covers on public transport and in stores should remain a legal requirement. “It is not a question of ‘personal responsibility’ and should not be left to individual employers either.”

Roger Barker, Policy Director at the Institute of Directors, said, “Like everyone else, companies across the country have been waiting with bated breath for Freedom Day.

“Instead, we received a number of mixed messages and patchwork requests from the government that dampened that excitement.

“Go back to work or stay at home. Throw away your masks or keep wearing them.

Atik - Gloucester PIC: Deltic
Night club owners are asked to consider using the NHS COVID passport Pic: Deltic

“The government’s long-awaited instructions today have done little to dispel this confusion.”

Hannah Essex, Co-Executive Director of the British Chambers of Commerce, said, “Many companies will keep some of the measures that have come out over the past 12 months, including facial covering in certain circumstances.

“Although the government has lifted some specific legal restrictions … companies still have the overall responsibility to minimize the risk to their employees and customers.

“This is why many are wondering whether they will be held liable if they make changes to the way they work after July 19th.

“Companies now only have five days to make this judgment and communicate it effectively to their employees and customers.”

A Waterstones store in Nottingham at the start of the lockdown on 03/23/2020
Waterstones will encourage customers to wear face masks

The guidelines come two days after the government confirmed most COVID-19 restrictions will end on July 19 while it continues to urge caution – news that was criticized as “confusing and contradicting”.

Discrepancies are already emerging as the use of masks on public transport continues to be enforced in parts of England including London but bus and train operator Go-Ahead tells Sky News that it will not insist on facial covers for passengers unless ordered to do so.

Meanwhile, nightclub operator REKOM UK said it would not ask for vaccination records despite government encouragement.

But the bookstore chain Waterstones has said that given the “closed browsing environment” in their stores, they would encourage customers to wear face masks and maintain social distancing “to respect the safety of staff and other book lovers.”

The chain says their price promise has already been rolled out in their supermarkets.  Image: Sainsbury's
Sainsbury’s encourages customers to continue wearing face covering whenever possible. Image: Sainsbury’s

And Sainsbury’s has announced that its stores will encourage customers to continue wearing face covers when they can starting Monday.

The supermarket said, “Colleagues are also encouraged to wear face-covering unless they are behind a screen and the entire Sainsbury leadership team wears one when visiting stores.

“While wearing face-covering is becoming a personal choice, the decision to ask everyone in stores to keep wearing face-covering when they can reflects feedback from customers and colleagues, with the majority of respondents sticking to the policy would like to.”



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