What is a COVID-secure workplace?
The government recently published guidance for different types of workplaces, making it straightforward to check and see what you should expect from any workplace you visit, whether it's an office, a lab, or a plant.
General guidance for all places of work
There are some parts of the guidance that are relevant across the board, no matter where you carry out your job. These include:
- Staggering arrival and departure times
- Providing extra parking or bike storage
- Creating more entry and exit points to ease congestion
- Have one door for entering the building and one for exiting if possible
- Have handwashing and hand sanitisation stations and entry and exit points
- Offer alternatives to touch-based security technology
- Provide storage for staff's personal belongings
- Discouraging nonessential trips within the workplace
- Assign employees to specific spaces or floors
- Create one-way systems through the building
- Encourage the use of stairs, reduce maximum occupancy for lifts and provide hand sanitisation within lifts
- Regulate the use of corridors, stairways and lifts
- Review layouts and use tape or paint to help staff maintain social distancing
- Avoid face-to-face working
- Use protective screens where appropriate
- Stagger break times
- Reconfigure seating
- Provide packaged meals to avoid opening canteens
This guidance gives an idea of the sort of measures you should be looking out for. If your client isn't observing COVID-secure measures and you don't feel safe, you need to speak to them and raise your concerns. You should also take a look at the more specific guidance for your client's particular workplace.
Should I return to the workplace?
At the moment, the government's guidance is to only return to the workplace if your job can't be carried out from home. So, if your role as a contractor can be fulfilled from home you should, upon agreement with your client, continue working that way as that is currently safest.
Of course, genuine contractors should have the freedom to work whenever and wherever they choose it's one of the perks of being your own boss after all. Since this can help cement your IR35 status by showing you are in business on your own account, there really has never been a better time to exercise this right as a business owner.
There are exceptions obviously, such as where your role may require you to handle sensitive data, or practical issues where your role requires you to physically be on-site to do your job. If you do need to return to your client's place of work, you should discuss with them the safest way for you to do this so you can reach a consensus.