Bosses warned workers could be sent home if workplaces are deemed unsafe

13 May 2020, 10:44 | Updated: 13 May 2020, 10:51

The government has announced their plans for keeping people safe as they return to work.

Companies who break new coronavirus safety guidance could face prosecution, the government has warned. 

Chief executive for the Health and Safety Executive, Sarah Albon, has threatened to come down hard on employers as some people return to work this week.

Speaking to the Downing Street daily briefing on Tuesday, she said: “Inspectors can require businesses to do certain things – enforcement notices, requiring them to take particular kinds of action.

Sarah Albon said workplaces could face fines
Sarah Albon said workplaces could face fines. Picture: PA Images

“In the most extreme circumstances if there is a risk of serious injury to an individual employee they can issue a notice which prohibits certain activities from taking place.

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“Breach of those kind of enforcement notices is essentially a criminal offence and we can prosecute people who fail to do the right thing."

Every workplace in the country will be required to fill out a health and safety risk assessment before they are allowed to ask workers back into offices.

Workplaces have to be deemed safe for employees to return
Workplaces have to be deemed safe for employees to return. Picture: Getty Images

Any employer who doesn't follow this guidance would be committing "a criminal offence" and could face hefty fines or even have their employees sent home.

This comes after Ms Albon told MPs that companies who are not able to stick to strict Covid-19 health and safety rules should not open.

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Speaking to the Work and Pensions Select Committee, she revealed that her staff had investigated more than 1,400 cases about workplace safety across two days in early March.

The government has allocated an additional £14 million to the HSE to enable it to carry out spot-checks on reopening work venues.

Employees were also urged to report any safety concerns they may have about their workplaces, but ministers are still yet to confirm whether those who feel unsafe will be forced to come in.

What is the ‘Covid-19 secure’ guidance for workplaces? 

- increasing hand washing and cleaning


- keeping people at work for limited times


- using screens or barriers to separate people from each other


- reorganising offices to use back-to-back or side-to-side seating


- using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ - so each person works with only a few others


- limiting meetings


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