Industrial Health and Safety: Coronavirus

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy written question – answered on 15th July 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Lister of Burtersett Baroness Lister of Burtersett Labour

To ask Her Majesty's Government what sanctions employers face if they breach the guidance set out in Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19), published on 11 June, in relation to (1) people with caring responsibilities, and (2) new and expectant mothers.

Photo of Lord Callanan Lord Callanan Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

The Government first published the safer workplaces guidance on 11 May setting out businesses can reopen safely. This guidance forms part of employers’ normal health and safety practice. Health and safety legislation is enforced by the Health and Safety Executive and by local authorities.

This guidance does not change employers’ responsibilities towards new or expectant mothers. Workers who are pregnant are part of the “clinically vulnerable” group who are at higher risk of coronavirus. If clinically vulnerable individuals, such as those who are pregnant, cannot work from home, they should be offered the safest available on-site roles. Employers need to assess whether this involves an acceptable level of risk. As part of this they should take into account their specific duties towards those with protected characteristics, including new or expectant mothers – who are ultimately entitled to suspension on full pay if a suitable role cannot be found.

If the enforcing authority finds that an employer is not taking action to properly manage workplace risk, a range of actions are open to them including specific advice or issuing enforcement notices. Employers should consult with unions and employees when carrying out their risk assessment. If employees continue to have concerns, they can raise them with their employer, any union safety representatives, or ultimately with the enforcing organisation - the Health and Safety Executive or their local authority.

Depending on the business, HSE and local authorities enforce health and safety in these workplaces and will monitor compliance including through inspections and following up on concerns raised by individuals with them. Local authorities enforce health and safety in workplaces, such as offices, shops, warehouses, and consumer services. They take action against any business who isn’t complying with their legal health and safety obligations, including providing guidance and issuing enforcement notices to require them to take the necessary action or taking tougher action like fines and jail sentences if they continue to not comply.

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