With the end of COVID regulations, how should employers manage workplace health and safety risks?

As COVID-19 rules and regulations end, employers now face a new set of challenges around keeping their people safe and healthy. Here are some recommendations around how to approach this new working reality.

From April 1, the majority of the rules and restrictions associated with COVID-19 will come to an end. The Government’s announcement means that the decisions around how we live with COVID-19 will no longer be enforced by legal requirements. Instead, these decisions will be made by individuals – including employers.

A return to normal?

Before we look at what this means for employers in terms of workplace health and safety, a quick reminder of what is changing on April 1. 

In England, there will no longer be a legal requirement to self isolate if you test positive, or if you’re unvaccinated and you come into close contact with someone who is positive. There will be no more free tests for most people, with the focus on testing shifting instead to more at-risk groups. Routine contact tracing, and enhanced statutory sick pay will end. Finally, there will also be an end to any requirement for employers to build COVID-19 considerations into their approach to health and safety.

This relaxation presents employers with fresh challenges in terms of health and safety. So how should you keep your people safe and your business compliant in this new working environment?

Health and safety in the new workplace

Firstly, clear, consistent communication is key. As regulations relax, the first practical measure that you can take is simply to speak with your employees, openly and honestly. If you haven’t done so already, begin a conversation with them about how they want to work in this post-COVID reality. Get a sense of what they are worried about and identify what you can do to help them to work in a way that allows them to be at their best. 

This is where most businesses can really benefit from the kind of expert consultancy we offer at L Wood. Managing risk in the workplace is an ever-evolving and complex process – now more than ever. We can help you to assess what you currently have in place in terms of health and safety policies and procedures and then advise you on the best solutions to meet the needs of your workforce.

Supporting your at-risk employees

Of course, some of your team members may fall into the at-risk category and you will need to prioritise their needs. 

On an individual basis, this might mean allowing them to continue to work from home, or adopting a hybrid approach that keeps everyone safe. 

From an organisational side, the needs of these more vulnerable team members will also impact your approach around how much you need to know, day-to-day, about your employees’ health or vaccination status. Do you need to know as soon as someone tests positive? If they are sharing an office with an at-risk team member, what processes do you have in place to protect their colleague? Some companies may even go as far as enforcing self-isolation on those who test positive, a decision that also brings its own challenges. 

Building a culture of health and safety

There is obviously much more to health and safety than managing COVID-19. Much of what is typically done around health and safety is still mandatory and will continue to require regular assessment to ensure compliance. 

This relaxation of the COVID-19 regulations simply underlines the need for health and safety to be built on open, two-way communication. When this happens, and people understand what they need to do, why it benefits them, their colleagues and the entire organisation, you’ll achieve a culture of health and safety in which everyone will be able to perform at their best. 

Building that culture can take time, but we can help. To find out more about how we can support you with your health and safety policies and procedures, call us on 01274 515 747 or email us at mail@lwood.co.uk