As the country finds itself in arguably the worst stage of the pandemic to date, the Health Authorities have once more issued a new set of measures in an effort to curb the spread.
Data and information provided by the Health Authorities over this past year have shown that offices and workplaces have often been hotspots for the further spread of COVID-19 and therefore, part of the success in curbing the spread lies in employers and employees working together to promote and ensure safe work practices in line with guidance from Public Health Authorities.
In view of the ever-growing numbers, the Health Authorities have also updated the Guidance for Offices and Workplaces.
The right of an employee to work within a healthy and safe environment is the crux of these guidelines.
Amongst the guidance and recommendations provided by the Authorities, some of which are also enshrined in law, one finds:
- The mandatory use of face coverings at all times and in all places within the workplace;
- The implementation of telework where possible and use of digital practices;
- The implementation of physical distancing at all times and in all places between employees;
- The implementation of good personal hygiene and educating employees on COVID-19 symptoms;
- The regular disinfection of all areas within the workplace;
- The need to keep the number of staff at any one time to a strict minimum and dividing the workforce into shifts;
- The creation of policies to support prevention measures and the creation of a contingency plan;
- The need to ventilate offices at all times.
Although health and safety legislation does not cater specifically for COVID-19, on the basis of an employer's general duty of care as well as the obligation at law to protect employees, a failure on the part of the employer to implement the necessary health and safety measures could, potentially amount to a breach of health and safety obligations at law and could therefore, potentially open the door for employees to file claims against the employer on the basis of such.
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