The Health and Safety Executive has issued the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) with a Notification of Contravention for failing to ensure the health and safety of its employees/agency staff at work because it had not implemented necessary measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The DWP will be required to pay a fee because of "material breaches" of health and safety law.
The HSE inspected the DWP office in Leeds on 27 August 2020 after receiving a report of a "workplace concern" from a whistleblower.
The HSE report (seen by the BBC) found problems including:
- a line manager briefing staff around a desk, with staff failing to follow social distancing
- walkways and stairwells being designated for two-way travel despite not being sufficiently wide (only about a metre wide)
- walkways passing too closely to usable desks
- breakout areas lacking “do not use” signs.
The DWP had risk assessed for the office being about 50% full, which the HSE report stated "may be ambitious and unrealistic", and it highlighted the risk of congestion and difficulties of social distancing.
Businesses would be well advised to check their COVID secure measures and assess whether their workplaces would pass a similar HSE inspection. In circumstances where employees may be nervous and/or reluctant to return to the office, there may be increased instances of employees blowing the whistle where they feel concerned for their health. We are busy advising clients in respect of these issues and would be happy to assist with any queries.