An Employer’s Responsibilities to their PAs During COVID-19
Employers have a legal duty to make the workplace safe for their Personal Assistants (PAs). It’s the employer’s responsibility to regularly carry out workplace risk assessments and take steps to to protect employees from harm , which includes reducing the COVID-19 risk. Employees also have a responsibility to follow safe working practices.
It’s a good idea to involve employees when carrying out a workplace risk assessment, as they may have suggestions/ideas.
There is a range of information and advice available for employers on COVID-19. These cover such areas as:
- Who can go into the workplace
- Self isolation and sick pay
- PAs protecting themselves, their employer and others
- Government Guidelines and employer requirements
- Getting the vaccine
- Access to PPE and testing
- Long COVID
- Other financial support
- Standard Infection Control Precautions (SICPs)
COVID-19 still remains a concern for public health and therefore employers are encouraged to continue with all protective measures identified by their risk assessment, to make appropriate adaptations to workplace practises and to maintain a vigilant approach to managing COVID-19.
Employers are encouraged to continue following the advice in the COVID-19: Fair Work Statement. It states that no worker should be financially penalised by their organisation for following medical advice, and any absence from work relating to COVID-19 should not affect future sick pay entitlement, result in disciplinary action or count towards any future sickness absence related action.
Face coverings when in close contact with people
For close contact treatments provided to the face, mouth or nose area, people must follow any advice given. Individuals who have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccination and a booster are still required to follow any current rules on face coverings.
Staff are at the highest risk of exposure to COVID-19 when working in close proximity to the face, nose or mouth of another person. For this reason, risk assessments should be carried out to consider what measures need to be implemented to protect the health and safety of all staff and PA employers, including whether or not to carry out the support required.
Risk assessments and COVID-19
The requirement for every employer to explicitly consider COVID-19 in their risk assessment was removed on 1 April 2022.
The most important thing is what is actually done to manage and control risk associated with COVID-19 in the workplace.
Public Health Scotland has published guidance on how to carry out risk assessments that sets out further detail on managing workplace public health risks
The Scottish Government are encouraging employers to take the needs of those on the Highest Risk List into consideration when completing a risk assessment.
For those PAs returning to the workplace it is advised that employers carry out an individual risk assessment to look at your individual risk. This can help individuals and employers to discuss any additional changes that may be needed to make the workplace and duties safer.
Employers are encouraged to consult closely with employees on the Highest Risk List.
Managing risk in the workplace
Employers can manage risks to their PAs by:
- Encouraging staff to wear face coverings in enclosed, busy areas, or places which are less well ventilated
- Maximising ventilation and the use of outside space if possible
- Reinforcing enhanced cleaning, particularly of frequently touched surfaces, and hygiene measures such as providing alcohol based hand sanitiser
- Supporting the distance aware scheme
- Encouraging staff to travel safely when going to and from the workplace. PAs should not travel to work or car share if you have symptoms of coronavirus
- Vehicle sharing at work involving close contact with other individuals. PAs should wear face coverings, ensure vehicles are well ventilated by opening windows and clean after each journey
- Protecting those at highest risk via conducting an individual risk assessment
- Continue to support workers to follow self-isolation guidance. From the end of April 2022 anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms will be advised to stay at home
- Reducing the overall contacts between people
- Regularly communicating with employees
- Developing plans to adjust shift patterns to protect the workforce
- Reducing the need for travel at peak times and providing opportunities for flexible working
- Continuing to work with staff on health and safety matters such as providing training around any new processes and protocols introduced
- Considering available resources to support the welfare and mental health of staff
- Encouraging the uptake of vaccination
Employers can help encourage vaccine take up by:
- Supporting staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine once it is offered to them. This may require paid time off to attend the appointment
- Encouraging vaccine take up by sharing the benefits of being vaccinated with staff. It could help to display material from the NHS COVID-19 vaccination marketing toolkit which includes information leaflets in a number of languages
Standard Infection Control Precautions (SICPs)
SICPs are the basic infection prevention and control measures necessary to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious agent from both recognised and unrecognised sources of infection.
The Scottish Government has set out the SICPs that are to be used by all staff, in all health and care settings, at all times, for all service users, whether infection is known to be present or not to ensure the safety of those being cared for, staff and visitors in the care environment.
As PA employers have the responsibility for health and safety of their staff members, it will be the responsibility of PA employers to assess risk for COVID-19 and to put in place appropriate Infection Control Precautions.
Take a look at the resources available below to guide you in more detail.