All businesses to face Government inspections before reopening

Bosses at UK firms wanting to reopen under the Government’s new guidance must carry out an inspection to show they are safe.

Ministers said they have consulted with around 250 businesses, trade bodies and unions to agree the plans, with eight separate documents published for different sectors of the business world which can reopen.

These include construction sites, factories and takeaways – although pubs and restaurants will remain shut until at least July.

Covid-19 form
Covid-19 form

The Government said the new Covid-19 secure guidance will work alongside current health and safety rules, rather than with the introduction of new laws for protecting workers.

It said businesses that want to reopen will need to carry out a risk assessment with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and place the certificate on display.

To cope with the extra influx, the HSE will receive an extra £14 million in funding for extra call-centre workers, inspectors and equipment.

Other key points include maintaining social distancing – with employers expected to redesign workspaces to maintain distancing – staggering start times, creating one-way systems for workers and protecting staff who may be vulnerable.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “This guidance provides a framework to get the UK back to work in a way that is safe for everyone.

“These are practical steps to enable employers to identify risks that Covid-19 creates and to take pragmatic measures to mitigate them.

“And as we are able to reopen new sectors of the economy, we will continue our collaborative approach working with a wide range of stakeholders, to provide guidance for additional workplaces.”

Craig Beaumont, head of external affairs UK at the Federation of Small Businesses added that the guidance is “practical, workable and proportionate for small businesses”.

He said: “It will be a long journey but this guidance will provide the basis for small employers to have the positive conversations needed with their staff. This is the first step to getting the economy back on its feet.”

CBI director-general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn said: “Safety is at the heart of business thinking. Unless people feel safe, employees won’t return, customers will stay away and the restart will falter, harming livelihoods and public services.”

And Jonathan Geldart, director general of the Institute of Directors said: “Ultimately, the decision lies with a company’s directors, and they need to feel comfortable they can operate safely.

“Decisions on reopening will not be taken lightly. Business leaders want to stand on their own two feet, but most can’t operate at anything like normal capacity at the moment, and making adjustments to protect staff and customers will be a big challenge for many workplaces.”

The eight separate guidance documents include:

– Construction and other outdoor work

– Factories, plants and warehouses

– Homes

– Labs and research facilities

– Offices and contact centres

– Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery

– Shops and branches

– Vehicles

Some unions have warned that without legislation, some unscrupulous bosses could take actions against the interests of their staff.

But the Government advice says the HSE will be able to identify “employers who are not taking action to comply” with a “range of actions to improve control of workplace risks”.

It added: “For example, this would cover employers not taking appropriate action to socially distance, where possible.

“The actions the HSE can take include the provision of specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices to help secure improvements.”

Guidance for other sectors that are not currently open will be developed and published ahead of those establishments opening to give those businesses time to plan, the Government added.