Your health and safety obligations post-Freedom Day - freedom in, health and safety out? - MLP Law

Your health and safety obligations post-Freedom Day – freedom in, health and safety out?

For many people, 19th July 2021 was “Freedom Day”, when the majority of COVID restrictions, such as mandatory mask wearing and social distancing, were removed. So does this mean that employers no longer need to think about COVID-related health and safety issues? Well……not quite. In many ways, the position has not changed for employers. They […]

Your health and safety obligations post-Freedom Day – freedom in, health and safety out?

For many people, 19th July 2021 was “Freedom Day”, when the majority of COVID restrictions, such as mandatory mask wearing and social distancing, were removed.

So does this mean that employers no longer need to think about COVID-related health and safety issues? Well……not quite.

In many ways, the position has not changed for employers. They are still obliged by the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 to take all reasonably practicable steps to reduce risks to the health and safety of employees, visitors and the public to the lowest reasonably practicable level.

Employees also retain the basic right to stay away from the workplace if they reasonably believe that it poses a serious and imminent health and safety risk to them which they cannot be expected to avert. The context of this right may have changed – it is much easier to allege such a belief in the risks of the workplace during the height of the pandemic when various legal counter measures have been introduced, and conversely, harder when those measures deemed by the government to be necessary, no longer apply – but employers must remain alert to concerns from employees about the safety of the workplace.

Mindful of their health and safety obligations, and with COVID infection rates still high, many employers are therefore likely to be reluctant to bring the measures that have served them well throughout the pandemic to an abrupt end.

Detailed workplace precautions around testing, masks, hygiene, social-distancing, screens etc are therefore likely to continue to be a feature of many workplaces and whether to keep in place such measures will ultimately remain a matter for employers to decide upon, based on their own understanding of their workforce and workplace.

Employers may face push back from employees who believe that they can no longer be required by their employers to wear masks or maintain social distancing, for example, now that restrictions have been removed nationally. However, this is not the case and employers are perfectly entitled to give reasonable management instructions to their employees to follow workplace health and safety rules, regardless of the existence (or not) of national guidance on COVID measures.

In this regard, it is likely that continued COVID safety measures, where applied proportionally and taking account of legitimate employee concerns, will be seen as perfectly reasonable steps to take as the country learns to “live with COVID” over the coming weeks and months.

If you would like to discuss your post-Freedom Day health and safety obligations with Employment team at MLP Law, please do not hesitate to get in touch on 0161 926 9969 or employment@mlplaw.co.uk, or follow us on Twitter @HRHeroUK.

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