Following the Prime Minister's announcement on Sunday, the Government published a set of eight guides aimed at helping employers work safely during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. One of the key requirements in these guides is the need for employers to carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment – and the government is "expecting" employers with over 50 workers to publish the results of these risk assessments online (and encourages all employers to publish their assessments, irrespective of their number of workers).
So what are the details of this risk assessment requirement? And what exactly do you need to publish?
What does the guidance say?
The guidance itself, "You should share the results of your [Covid-19] risk assessment with your workforce. If possible, you should consider publishing the results on your website (and we would expect all employers with over 50 workers to do so)."
First, we can say that this non-statutory guidance is not law: there is currently no enforcement action that can be taken should you not publish your risk assessment.
However, all employers have an existing legal duty under Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to conduct such a risk assessment, with failure to do so being a criminal offence. In light of the likely concerns from employees and members of the public we consider a business may suffer reputational issues should they decide not publish their assessments in line with the guidance. We anticipate the publication of such assessments will become good practice across all sectors.
There is also the possibility that publication may become a legal requirement at a later stage.
What do I need to publish?
In terms of content, the guidance makes it clear that businesses need only publish the results of their risk assessment, rather than the risk assessment document itself. Employers will therefore not need to publish all documentation created during the risk assessment process but rather they can focus on the practical steps they will be taking to minimise the risks identified.
For businesses operating over multiple locations we consider publication of an overarching risk assessment document will be sufficient to meet the requirements of the guidance.Site-specific risk assessments can be retained should they be requested by a regulator in the future.
What steps do I need to take?
Businesses looking to reopen will need to follow the new guidance and take the following steps:
- Complete a detailed risk assessment, thinking about the risks employees face from Covid-19 and what reasonably practicable measures you can take to reduce those risks.
- Determine how your findings can be communicated effectively with your employees. This will need to be presented in a clear and user-friendly manner
- Consider what you will publish online. Focus on the results of your assessment and the steps you will be implementing to control the risks identified. We would recommend specifically referring to your commitment to maintaining a safe workplace and to meeting your duty of care to your employees.
- Consider where on your website you will publish the information and how you will integrate this disclosure into your existing governance and compliance processes. Companies are already under an obligation to publish a number of statements on their website depending on their size (for example, general trading disclosures, a modern slavery statement, gender pay gap information, their tax strategy and – for publicly traded companies - their annual reports and accounts and other corporate governance information). We would suggest that you publish the risk assessment information at the same level as your other governance and compliance website disclosures and ensure that processes are reviewed to incorporate this new disclosure.
If you have any questions with regards the requirements of the new Government guidance or how to conduct your Covid-19 risk assessment please contact our health and safety team using the contact details below.