The Covid-secure guidelines workplaces will have to follow when staff go back to offices

EMPLOYERS will have to keep workers apart and encourage them not to use public transport when members of staff go back into offices, new government guidance suggests.

Ministers have unveiled their latest plans for beginning to lift the lockdown, which outlines what people need to do to stay safe.

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Eeveryone who cannot work from home should travel to their office if it is open – but employers must follow new “covid-19 secure” steps to keep infections low.

These include:

  • Change shift patterns or rotas to limit the number of people in the office at any one time
  • Take steps to stagger entry and exit, including varying shift times
  • Encourage workers to cycle, drive or walk rather than use public transport
  • Improve ventilation

The government said that “for the foreseeable future”, workers should keep working from home wherever possible in order to minimise the number of people they come into contact with.

But if they have to go into an office, employers must do things to help keep workers apart.

This could involve limiting the number of people in the office at any time by changing shift patterns and rotas so people work in smaller teams.

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Businesses will also be expected to help stop people from gathering together, staggering entry and exit where possible.

There are also concerns that a mass return to work could mean busier public transport, so employers are being encouraged to stagger work hours so people are not all coming in at once.

They could also add bike storage facilities, more car parking, and install changing facilities to help people cycle, drive or walk to work.

Evidence also suggests that the virus is less likely to be transmitted in well-ventilated areas, the guidance says.

This means that employers should keep offices well aired by using external extractor fans.

The government had previously published more comprehensive instructions for businesses last month.

In that paper it said employers should provide extra handwashing facilities, and use floor markers to help people stay two metres apart.

"Where it is not possible to remain two metres apart, staff should work side by side, or facing away from each other, rather than face to face if possible," it said.

Communal surfaces like door handles or lift buttons and communal areas like bathrooms, kitchens and tea points should also be cleaned frequently.

The government's guidance published today also contained lots of generic advice to help people stay safe outside their homes, such as keeping two metres away from people at all times and washing hands regularly.

It also now suggests wearing a mask in public places where social distancing is harder.

And people should consider washing their clothes more often if they are working with people outside their household as there is some evidence that the virus can stay on fabrics for a few days, it said.

There are also likely to be pilot reopenings of pubs, cinemas and hairdressers in order to test the social distancing guidelines.

Pubs, hairdressers and cinemas have to pass five tests before they can reopen.

Here are the COVID-secure rules non-essential shops will have to follow before reopening.

The businesses including food prep and construction that can go back to work.

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