With a third lockdown underway in the UK, manufacturing employees that cannot carry out their jobs remotely, have been told to continue working as normal while the rest of the nation stays at home.
To aid manufacturing firms in understanding their duty of care to their workers and helping their employees to feel safe, Jayne Harrison, head of employment law at Richard Nelson LLP
has outlined three tips for protecting manufacturing staff in ‘Lockdown 3.0’.1. Assess which employees can work from home
According to the UK Government, any workers who are unable to complete their job role at home are still able to leave their house for work purposes. This is including, but not limited to, those who work in critical national infrastructure, construction, or other roles that require in-person attendance. Therefore manufacturing workers, cleaners, and other critical workers who are unable to work effectively from home can, in most cases, to return to work if their employer is operating their services.
Ms Harrison says manufacturing firms should carefully assess the cases of those staff who have proven they are able to complete their job from home. If it is not necessary for them to attend the workplace, they should be encouraged to work remotely. Employers must also assess the case of any manufacturing staff who are redundant to the business due to a seasonal downturn or drop in sales since these employees may be eligible for furlough and therefore would not need to attend the workplace. 2. Support vulnerable critical employees during lockdown
Any manufacturing workers who have received a letter from the Government recommending them to shield should not be expected to attend their workplace, a measure put in place for their own protection. Manufacturing firms have the option to furlough their employees who are required to shield during lockdown if remote working is not possible. If these employees can continue to work remotely, they should continue to do so.
For employees who are at a higher risk but did not receive a letter from the Government, manufacturing businesses can carry out a risk assessment to ensure the workplace is as Covid-secure as possible.
Employers cannot force their staff to attend the workplace. Businesses should however consider whether these staff can be furloughed or whether there is any other way to deal with their absence. It might be that a business can start disciplinary action if an employee refuses to return to work but businesses need to exercise care when considering this option. 3. Ensure your business has conducted a risk assessment
Manufacturing employees may be concerned that their workplace itself is unsafe. Businesses should ensure they have taken the necessary steps to make the environment secure, by following the current social distancing guidance and making physical adjustments to the workplace. Manufacturing firms should communicate the specific arrangements they have put in place to protect their workforce with them.
HR and management should consider staggering the start and finish times of their employees who are commuting where possible to ensure the risk of infection is minimised. They should also ensure employees who are able to work remotely are given this option, as well as supporting any staff who are too vulnerable to return to work at this time.
The requirement of critical workers to continue attending to their workplace is something that employers must handle with extreme sensitivity. Employees should feel comfortable discussing their worries with their employer about the pandemic and employers must work in this instance to support their employees as they navigate safely through this latest lockdown.