Lawyer says COVID-19 safety overrides personal choiceSE modifies on-site COVID-19 health advice
Lawyer says COVID-19 safety overrides personal choice
July 19th was named Freedom Day, as most COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in England. Some safety measures, such as wearing PPE (personal protective equipment), are now a personal choice. However, Katherine Metcalfe, the Legal Director of law firm Pinsent Masons, says that in the workplace, the employer’s responsibility for health and safety overrides personal choice.
Metcalfe says that every workplace requires a risk assessment concerning the danger of COVID transmission in that particular location, and a business should have measures in place to minimise the risk. Each employer needs to take a view on which measures still need to be in place.
Any anti-COVID measures that are retained need to be enforced. According to Metcalfe, the employer's legal responsibility for the health and safety of all employees trumps that of individual employees who choose to ignore safety measures. For example, if a workplace insists on all employees wearing face masks, staff cannot choose not to.
Speaking to HR News, Metcalfe said that COVID:
“Continues to be a hazardous substance for the purpose of the Control of Substances Hazard to Health Regulations and that means it does need a risk assessment and control measures.”
Another issue is that regulations are different in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. For example, face masks are mandatory in Scotland, but not in England. This makes it difficult for employers that operate in more than one UK country to have universal COVID measures. Companies operating throughout the UK may have different approaches in different UK countries.