Employers must not let their guard down, says UNISON

Even as COVID restrictions loosen, health and safety legislation must still be followed and risks to employees minimised

woman with mask on in front of laptop, sanitising her hands

With UK nations set to remove some or all COVID-19 restrictions in the coming days and weeks, UNISON is urging employers not to let their guard down, but to continue to comply with health and safety legislation, including their duties to identify and reduce risks for their employees.

The legislation lays out requirements that employers, among other things, regularly review risk assessments, consult with union health and safety representatives and be ready to put additional measures in place.

There are also duties on employers, under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which require them to ensure:

• an adequate supply of fresh or purified air;

• adequate space; and

• that workplaces are clean and well-maintained.

Good ventilation and fresh air are essential measures, not only for reducing the risk of transmission of COVID-19, but other winter respiratory viruses.

UNISON national officer for health and safety Kim Sunley said: “Regardless of what COVID laws and guidance are in place, employers still have a duty to identify and reduce the risks to both the health and safety of employees whilst they are at work.”

She continued: “COVID infection can still cause severe harm to health and the risk of transmission varies depending on levels of infection in the community, the type of work activity being carried out and workplace outbreaks.

“And, as per the legislation, the higher the risk, the more preventative measures that employers need to put in place. This means that employers should be prepared to take further measures if the risk of transmission increases in their workplaces.”

Ms Sunley added: “Everyone wants COVID to be over, but living – and, more importantly, working – alongside it, will still require a number of preventative measures to be in place, including protecting those who may be more at risk of infection.

“In the words of Dr Tedros, director general of the world health organisation, ‘no country can boost its way out of the pandemic’. While vaccination is really important, it should not be at the cost of all other workplace protections.”

For the latest information including links to UNISON’s workplace safety and ventilation guidance, visit:

Coronavirus: your rights at work | UNISON National