The new workplace guidelines released by the government just days before most of England’s remaining COVID rules were lifted have been criticized as a ‘recipe for chaos’.
Employers were told that as of Monday they no longer need to implement social distancing and that, with working from home if possible no longer educated, they should plan for a gradual return over the course of the week. ‘summer.
But the TUC, the labor organization, said the government had failed to provide the necessary clarity while the Institute of Managers said the guidelines had done little to clear up confusion among bosses.
The guide gives advice to employers in different sectors, stressing that they should always “take reasonable steps to manage risks” in the workplace and the places where they operate.
It tells nightclub operators, for example, that they should consider using the NHS COVID pass to reduce the risk of virus transmission.
Meanwhile, in offices and stores, face coverings are no longer required by law, but the government “still expects and recommends that people continue to wear face coverings in confined and crowded spaces.”
For services such as estheticians and hairdressers, employers are advised that they “may decide … to require clients or staff to wear a face covering, particularly when practitioners are performing treatments that require them to. to be close to the face, to the nose “.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “These new back-to-work safety guidelines are a recipe for chaos and increased infections.
“Instead of providing clear and consistent advice on how to keep staff safe at work, the government is abandoning workers and employers. “
Ms O’Grady said the guidelines “will leave many employers with more questions than answers and worry about their liability if they get it wrong.”
She added that wearing face coverings on public transport and in shops should remain a legal requirement, arguing: “It is not a matter of ‘personal liability’, nor should it be left to the public. individual employers to decide. “
Roger Barker, director of policy at the Institute of Directors, said: “Like everyone else, businesses across the country have been eagerly awaiting ‘Freedom Day’.
“But instead, we got a series of mixed messages and patchwork demands from the government that dampened that enthusiasm.
“Go back to work or continue to stay at home. Throw away your masks or continue to wear them.
“The long-awaited directives from the government today have done little to clear up this confusion.”
Hannah Essex, co-executive director of the UK Chambers of Commerce, said: “Many companies will keep in place some of the measures that have become familiar over the past 12 months, including the face covering in certain circumstances.
“Although the government has removed some specific legal restrictions … companies still have the overall responsibility to minimize risk to their employees and customers.
“Therefore, many are wondering if they will be held responsible if they change the way they operate from July 19.
“Companies now only have five days to pass judgment and communicate it effectively to their staff and customers. “
The guidance comes two days after the government confirmed most COVID-19 restrictions will end on July 19 while continuing to urge caution – message who was criticized as “confusing and contradictory”.
Inconsistencies are already starting to appear, with masks on public transport continuing to be enforced in parts of England including London but bus and train operator Go-Ahead told Sky News it would not insist on face coverings for passengers unless ordered.
Meanwhile, nightclub operator REKOM UK has said it will not apply for vaccine passports despite government encouragement.
But the Waterstones bookstore chain said given the “closed browsing environment” in its stores, it would encourage customers to wear face masks and observe social distancing “while respecting the safety of staff and other enthusiasts. of books “.
And Sainsbury’s has said its stores will encourage customers to continue wearing face coverings, if they can, from Monday.
The supermarket said: “Colleagues will also be encouraged to wear a face cover, unless they are behind a screen and the entire Sainsbury management team will wear one when visiting stores.
“While wearing a face covering becomes a personal choice, the decision to ask everyone in stores to continue to wear a face covering if they can reflects feedback from customers and colleagues where the majority of respondents wish to keep the policy in place. “