"The paucity of clear direction, and the inability of the worker to rely on any statutory obligation, passes the buck from government to employer while enabling those driven by profit above all to pay lip service to the health and safety of their workforce."

Gerard Stilliard
Head of personal injury strategy at Thompsons Solicitors

In response to the government’s ‘Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)’ guidelines - published yesterday [11 May 2020] – Gerard Stilliard, head of personal injury strategy at Thompsons Solicitors, said:

“This is a cut and paste job by the government with weak instruction and no statutory force.

“Crucially, the start of each of the eight guidances makes it explicitly clear in identical language that it does not create any new legal rights and, save for some requirements for social distancing (some of it frankly fanciful) and hand washing, it’s business as usual on health and safety.  

“There is no need for additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) beyond what you usually wear. In fact, it goes so far as to state that ‘workplaces should not encourage​ the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against COVID-19 outside clinical settings or when responding to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19’.

“Even when they tackle reliance on face coverings as a protective measure (when the clear advice is that they are ineffective at best and may even make matters worse by encouraging wearers to riskier behaviour) the best you get is that the ‘government would therefore not expect to see employers relying on face coverings as risk management for the purpose of their health and safety assessments’. No-one will disagree with that, but what is striking is the lack of firm instruction or decisive discouragement - and no stern reminder that employers who rely on such measures and no more will face stringently enforced penalties.

“As one might expect given the vacuity of the guidelines, they are peppered with ‘every reasonable effort’ ‘we would expect’ and the ubiquitous ‘everything practical’.

“The paucity of clear direction, and the inability of the worker to rely on any statutory obligation, passes the buck from government to employer while enabling those driven by profit above all to pay lip service to the health and safety of their workforce.”