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Gorvins Solicitors: Our response to Covid-19 and associated measures in the workplace

Version 1 – 18th  June 2020

 

SECTION 1 – INTRODUCTION AND KEY POINTS

Purpose of this document

Here at Gorvins we take the health, wellbeing and safety of all our colleagues (employees, partners and consultants) and those visiting our premises (clients, intermediaries or contractors) very seriously.

The aim of this document is to identify areas of risk associated with Covid-19 which apply to our colleagues, whether that be colleagues working from home or colleagues commuting from home to come into the office.

Covid 19

The World Health organisation (WHO) describe Covid-19 as follows:

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease. Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment, however symptoms can be mild, moderate, severe or fatal.  Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is be well informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes and how it spreads. Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol based rub frequently and not touching your face.

At this time, there are no specific vaccines or treatments for COVID-19

Symptoms of Covid-19

The symptoms of Covid-19 vary immensely. Some people can be asymptomatic (i.e. they don’t exhibit any symptoms). However, others may exhibit a range of symptoms which WHO list as follows:

Most common symptoms:

  • Fever (i.e. a temperature of 37.8 degrees or higher)
  • Dry cough.
  • Tiredness.
  • Loss of taste and smell

Less common symptoms:

  • Aches and pains.
  • Sore throat.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Conjunctivitis.
  • Headache.
  • A rash on skin, or discolouration of fingers or toes.

Serious symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
  • Chest pain or pressure.
  • Loss of speech or movement.

If any colleague:

  • develops, or becomes unwell with, any of the above symptoms; or
  • lives in a household where any member of the household develops any of the above symptoms; or
  • is contacted by the NHS “test and trace” system and told to self-isolate; or
  • is told to isolate via the NHS coronavirus app,

they MUST NOT COME TO WORK and MUST notify at the first opportunity HR and your Head of Department.  You should follow the current Government “stay at home” guidance on self-isolating and household isolating

If anyone does contract Covid-19 and has a confirmed diagnosis to that effect, or lives in a household where a family member has a confirmed diagnosis of Covid-19, , or is told to self-isolate via the NHS “test and trace” system or NHS Coronavirus app, they MUST inform HR and your Head of Department as soon as possible.

You should only consider returning to work if you are able to end your period of self-isolation or household isolation in accordance with current Government Guidance.

If any colleague develops any of the above symptoms in the office should immediately leave work and MUST notify HR and your Head of Department at the first opportunity return home and follow the above “stay at home” guidance on self-isolating.

Those with symptoms should get themselves tested to confirm whether or not their illness is in fact Covid-19. If you have a positive test you must not return to the office until you have had a further test with a negative result. Test availability will depend on Government guidance on testing.  You must liaise with your Head of Department and HR as to your plans and progress.

Those at high risk

Whilst the health and wellbeing of all our colleagues and visitors to Gorvins’ premises is immensely important, particular attention needs to be paid to protect those who are at higher risk.

Clinically extremely vulnerable people will have received a letter telling them they are in this group, or will have been told by their GP. Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable need to inform HR and their Head of Department that they fall into this category as these individuals have been strongly advised by the Government not to work outside of their home.

Clinically vulnerable people refers to people who may be at increased risk from COVID-19, including those aged 70 or over and those with some underlying health conditions. Those who are clinically vulnerable need to inform HR and their Head of Department that they fall into this category and their role assessed with this in mind.

If a colleague lives with someone in their household who falls into the clinically extremely vulnerable category then they should pay particular attention to this guidance and social distancing guidelines when in the office.

Any colleague who falls into any of the above categories (i.e. they are clinically extremely vulnerable, clinically vulnerable or lives with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable, should also inform HR and their Head of Department of this fact before returning to the workplace so that an individual risk assessment can be carried out relating to their individual circumstances and the nature of their role with Gorvins.

RIDDOR

Under RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) when a worker has been diagnosed as having COVID 19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This must be reported as a case of disease by Gorvins. Accordingly if anyone does contract Covid-19 and has a confirmed diagnosis to that effect, or lives in a household where a family member has a confirmed diagnosis of Covid-19, they MUST inform HR and your Head of Department to enable Gorvins to comply with our requirements under the RIDDOR.

Equality in the workplace

All colleagues need be treated equally and it is against the law to discriminate, directly or indirectly, against anyone because of a protected characteristic such as age, sex or disability.

SECTION 2 – GOVERNMENT GUIDANCE

The UK government has published specific guidance for businesses around Covid-19. This includes guides on “Good practice for employers”, “Social distancing in the workplace – principles” and “limiting the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) in business and the workplace” where the relevant section for us at Gorvins relates to “Offices and contact centres”.

Fundamentals

The current fundamental messages from the Government guidance for those working in an office environment such as Gorvins are as follows:

  • No colleague should be forced to work in an unsafe workplace.
  • Colleagues should continue to work from home if at all possible.
  • Colleagues need to be consulted and actively participate in relation health and safety issues in the workplace relating to Covid-19 and any associated guidance or measures taken by Gorvins. This is to be done asking colleagues to choose their own representatives to liaise with HR and the Equity Partner Group on such matters.
  • This document should be published on the Gorvins website.
  • We should identify the minimum number of people needed on site to operate safely and effectively in accordance with both Health and Safety laws and other laws and regulations which we are bound by.
  • As an organisation Gorvins needs to keep in touch with colleagues working from home on their working arrangements including their welfare, mental and physical health and personal security.
  • Colleagues working from home should be provided with equipment allowing them to work safely and effectively, this includes things such as access to work systems.

SECTION 3 – SPECIFIC MEASURES FOR THOSE RETURNING TO WORK

The measures set out at in this Section 3 must be followed by all members of colleagues when travelling to and from work and whilst in the office. These are designed to maintain the recommended social distancing measure wherever possible and therefore reduce the potential spread of Covid-19 between colleagues to keep our colleagues and their families as safe as possible.

Section 3 contains procedures (listed alphabetically) related to each of the following:

  • Behaviours
  • Cleaning
  • Clothes and bags
  • Contractors
  • Entering Dale House
  • Entrance to Gorvins’ offices
  • Face Coverings
  • Kitchens/4th floor beak out room
  • Meetings
  • Mental Health
  • Meeting Rooms
  • Moving around the offices and building
  • Photocopiers/printers
  • Post and goods inwards
  • Signage
  • Travel to and from work
  • Ventilation
  • Working hours
  • Work Stations – Desk occupation
  • Work Stations – General
  • Working groups

Behaviours

It is imperative that when in Dale House and the Gorvins’ office that all colleagues take responsibility for their actions and behaviours. Whilst this guidance is primarily around keeping colleagues safe when they are in the office, it is important that all colleagues follow the guidance set out in this document not only for their own safety but for that of their colleagues and their families. As such colleagues need to be conscious of their actions and how their actions may be viewed by others. By way of example, you may be comfortable whilst sat at your desk to have someone walk up to your desk and hand you some papers, however, other colleagues may not be comfortable with you doing the same to them. In this example if you are taking papers to a colleague you should stand back, let the colleague know you have some papers for them and ask if  they want you to hand the papers to them or leave them on an adjoining desk where the colleague whom the papers are for can collect them once you have walked away.

Additionally, all colleagues need to take responsibility for their own actions. For example don’t assume another colleague has wiped down a kettle after they used it. As such if you are going to use the kettle please wipe it down before you use it.

Colleagues therefore need to be aware and mindful of their actions and how their actions may make another colleague feel uncomfortable. Equally, if a colleague feels uncomfortable by another colleague’s actions then they should not be afraid to speak up and say so and colleagues need to respect each other’s views and opinions in this regard in a polite and professional manner.

Cleaning

Colleagues will be responsible for the cleaning of their own workstations on a daily basis (see the section on “Workstations – General”) with appropriate cleaning materials provided by Gorvins.

Colleagues are responsible for cleaning objects and surfaces that they touch regularly such as door handles, photocopier touchscreens, kitchen surfaces and equipment. Adequate disposal facilities for any cleaning products and material used (e.g. paper towels/anti-bacterial wipes) will be provided.

Waste bins will be emptied as usual on a daily basis.

Clothes and bags

Clothes (including footwear) and bags brought in by a colleague must be stored at their desk (on the floor under their desk or on the back of their chair) and taken home at the end of the day. No such items should be left on site overnight.

Contractors

A copy of this policy should be provided to any contractors who are required to attend our offices. These would include people such as those servicing equipment such as photocopiers and air conditioning units, window cleaners, our outsourced archive service provider and those collecting our waste paper for confidential GDPR compliant destruction.

Wherever possible contractor visits should be arranged to take place outside of office hours to reduce and minimise interaction between our colleagues working in the office and contractors wherever possible.   

A record of all contractors entering the premise should be maintained. Ideally this should be done centrally by one person electronically to reduce the risk of multiple people coming into contact with say a visitor book and the same pen. This could be useful for contact tracing purposes if required.

Entering Dale House

On entering Dale House colleagues should be mindful of touching anything within the common areas from door handles at the entrances through to handrails on the stairs and buttons in the lift, wash and/or sanitise their hand afterwards and not touch their face or eyes.

Any guidance issued by the landlord will be communicated to colleagues and this must be followed by all colleagues when in the communal areas of Dale House.

Colleagues are recommended to take the stairs where possible (without touching the handrails) and to try and only use the lifts in a situation where they are the only person in the lift. This also leaves the lifts available for those who physically need to use the lifts.

If it is necessary for a lift to be used, colleagues are recommended to use them on their own.

Entrance to Gorvins’ offices

The following measures shall be introduced at each set of double doors on the 4th, 5th and 6th floors:

  • There will be placed on (or near the windowsill) a bottle of hand sanitiser and a pack of antibacterial wipes. Colleagues can then use the antibacterial wipes to open the door using the pull handles and to wipe the handle down afterwards.
  • On the inside there will be a bottle of hand sanitiser, a pack of anti-bacterial wipes and a bin. Anti-bacterial wipes used coming into the office can then be disposed of in the bin and colleagues can use the hand sanitiser on their hands.
  • When exiting the double doors colleagues should use their elbow or arm (rather than their hand) to push the doors open and, if necessary use the hand sanitiser on the other side once they have gone through the doors,
  • Please bear in mind social distancing when multiple people are coming and going through the entrance doors to each floor.
  • Signage will be placed at each entrance (1) reminding people of the symptoms of Covid-19 and that they should not enter if they or any member of their household is exhibiting those symptoms, (2) telling people to stand back if someone is coming through the doors from the other direction (i.e. creating a “one-way” type system) and (3) to remind people to use the antibacterial wipes (or a paper towel if they chose) to open the door, they should then dispose of the paper towel/antibacterial wipe (if used) in the foot operated pedal bin on the other side of the door and, in all cases, use the hand sanitiser placed inside the door once they enter the office.
  • Inside the door there should be second stack of paper towels and/or antibacterial wipes, foot operated pedal bin and hand sanitiser.
  • Any paper towels/antibacterial wipes used to push a door open can be deposited in the foot operated pedal bins.
  • By using foot operated pedal bins no one needs to therefore touch these with their hands and these bins will contain a bin liner which will be emptied once a day.

Face Coverings

It is important to note that wearing a face covering, and in particular a non-medical grade face covering (where medical grade face coverings/masks should be reserved for professional use in healthcare settings), does not protect the wearer from potentially contracting Covid-19. The only evidential benefit is that wearing a face mask may protect others from catching Covid-19 from the wearer if the wearer is infected but has not yet developed any symptoms.

Colleagues entering Dale House, moving around the office or for whatever reason are unable to maintain an appropriate social distance from others should wear a face covering which can be removed when sat at your desk. Where colleagues do wear a face covering they should ensure that they wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (as per Government recommendations) before putting a face covering on, and after removing it.

Colleagues wearing a face covering should also take extra care to avoid touching their face or mask as they risk contaminating their face covering with germs from their hands.

Face coverings should be changed if they become damp or are touched.

Reusable face coverings should, if capable of being washed, be washed daily and if they can’t be washed they should be disposed of carefully each day.

Colleagues are encouraged to wear their own face covering which they find comfortable and should cover your mouth and nose. However, daily reusable face coverings will be available on site for those who don’t have their own.

Kitchens/4th floor breakout room

Only one person at a time should use the kitchen area on the 5th and 6th floors so as to ensure appropriate social distancing. More than one person may use the 4th floor kitchen, however, please ensure that social distancing is observed.

Colleagues should only make food or drink for themselves (i.e. no “tea runs”).

Kitchens and kitchen areas should contain paper towels/anti-bacterial wipes so people can wash their hands and use them to wipe down surfaces and items such as kettles after use. Suitable cleaning materials will also be positioned in each Kitchen area. There should also be foot operated pedal bins in each kitchen area for disposal of used paper towels/antibacterial wipes.

Colleagues will need to be mindful of cross contamination of food products they bring from home and which are placed in fridges. Any food brought into the office should be brought in in a suitable “Tupperware” style container (as opposed to in tin foil or cling film) or in its original packaging (e.g. a pre-bought sandwich in a triangular package) where the “Tupperware” style container or packaging is wiped down with antibacterial wipes before being placed in the fridge.

Signage will be put on fridges reminding people to wash their hands before taking products out of the fridge and to wipe down containers and packaging before putting items into the fridge.

In light of the current social distancing requirements, the seating area in the 4th floor kitchen will be suspended until further notice and as such colleagues must take their lunch back to their desk to eat. Colleagues should therefore be considerate of their other colleagues with regard to their choice of food. Break times may also be staggered to avoid any overcrowding around kitchen areas at peak times.

The microwaves will remain available, however, they should be wiped down when used and any food warmed up should be eaten at the colleague’s desk and not in the 4th floor (or any other) kitchen area. Microwaves will be moved around so that there is at least one on each floor. Colleagues should try wherever possible to use the microwave and kitchen facilities on their own floor in the first instance.

Signage will be placed on water coolers reminding people to wipe down the watercooler before use or to alternatively use the tap.

 Meetings

Use remote meeting facilities wherever possible to avoid in-person meetings.

If meeting in-person only those absolutely necessary should attend the meeting and the social distancing standard should be maintained at all times.

In-person meetings between colleagues should take place in an appropriate sized meeting room. For example a training session for 6 colleagues should take place in the Boardroom so each colleague can maintain the current recommended distance from others. Such a session should not take place in a small meeting room such as Arkwright or the training room on the 5th floor.

If documents are being dropped off for a colleague by a client whilst reception is not operating as usual, the colleague should meet the client to collect those documents using appropriate social distancing. This could for example involve the client coming up to say the 6th floor, the colleague meeting them there, the client leaving the documents on the windowsill, the client steps away and the colleague picks up the documents so that appropriate social distancing is maintained. This could also be done in the car park with documents being placed on a car windscreen by a client to be collected by the colleague once the client steps away.

Meeting rooms – 6th floor meeting room and 5th floor training room

All meeting rooms should contain a bottle of hand sanitiser and a pack of paper towels/antibacterial wipes.

Meeting Rooms will have signage on them indicating the maximum number of people who should use the meeting room concerned so that the recommended social distancing standard can be maintained within each meeting room. Signage should also be used to remind and encourage colleagues about social distancing in the workplace and common sense should be used to ensure social distancing standards can be maintained when using meeting rooms.

Signage should be placed on each meeting room door encouraging people to (1) avoid touching door handles where possible (e.g. use elbows or a paper towel/antibacterial wipe) (2) maintain social distancing in the meeting room at all times (3) make use of the hand sanitiser and antibacterial wipes provided and (4) to keep the room naturally ventilated by opening the windows.

Mental Health

Working from home as some colleagues return to the office poses its own issues for some. Heads of Departments will stay in regular touch with those colleagues working from home so as to ensure colleagues don’t feel disconnected, isolated or abandoned. Any colleagues who are suffering from any issues affecting their mental health (e.g. stress) whether in the office or whilst working remotely are encouraged to raise such issues with their Head of Department, Team Leader, HR or any member of the equity partner group.

Moving around the building and offices

Colleagues on site are encouraged to consider their movements around their own floor and other floors and such movement should be kept to a minimum. This may involve phoning colleagues and speaking to them over the phone instead of leaving their desk to go and speak to a colleague.

Many manual systems that previously required (for example) the printing out of a form, that form being signed and then taken to another person, have been automated or can now be done electronically. Colleagues should make use of these new systems wherever possible.

Documents and other papers (e.g. post, printing etc) may be left by a colleague on the desk of another colleague when their desk is unoccupied or on an adjacent desk which is unoccupied.

The only department who may need access to the desk of another colleague is the IT department, although the IT department will try and deal with any IT related issues remotely in the first instance and only attend a desk when a remote fix is not possible. In such a situation the colleague seated at the desk must move away (at a safe distance) to allow the member of the IT department to access their desk and the member of the IT department must wipe down the desk, keyboard, mouse and chair arms when they sit down. Once the issue has been resolved, the colleague whose desk it is can (allowing a safe distance between any cross-over between themselves and the relevant member of the IT department) can return to their desk and they should then wipe down the desk, keyboard, mouse and chair arms before they sit down and continue to work.

Greeting colleagues (or others) with physical contact (e.g. a handshake or hug) should be avoided.

Photocopiers and printers

Hand sanitiser and cleaning materials will be made available next to each bank of photocopiers so colleagues can wipe down touch screens and the pull out keyboards before and after each use.  This should be done before a photocopier is used by a colleague.

Post and goods inwards

Appropriate cleaning procedures will be implemented such that goods arriving into the office can be wiped down, opened and packaging destroyed. Goods should be opened in such a way as to minimise the risk of transmission of any germs on out packaging to the contents of the package.

Colleagues in the post room should either use gloves and dispose of them after use and/or wash /sanitise hands thoroughly after handling goods and post inwards.

Post room colleagues will be provided with suitable materials to wipe down goods inwards, dispose of any materials used and to sanitise their hands afterwards.

Travel to and from work

All colleagues are encouraged wherever possible to travel to and from work by a means of personal transport such as a car, motorbike, bicycle or on foot. By travelling to and from work by such a method, colleagues are less exposed to other members of the public whom they would not routinely come into contact with and are less likely to be touching or coming into contact with potentially contaminated surfaces or others who may have Covid-19.

Where colleagues have no option but to use public transport to travel into the workplace, they should follow all applicable social distancing guidelines for public transport issued by the government. Colleagues are advised to carry hand sanitiser with them to use after they have touched surfaces which other people may have touched (such as doors, seats, buttons for train doors, pedestrian crossing buttons etc) during their journey to work and they should wash their hands thoroughly on arrival at the office. Face coverings should be worn by colleagues who have to use public transport where mandated by Government and the then current social distancing guidelines for public transport.

If you have concerns over using public transport to travel to and from work, please raise this in the first instance with your Head of Department.

Signage

Signage will be placed around the offices.

This will either be specific signage relating to a particular issue (e.g. signage indicating only one person should be within the marked area around kitchen facilities or one person only in the 6th floor kitchen).

Or signage will be generic (e.g. signage and posters building awareness of good handwashing technique, the need to increase hand washing frequency, the fact people should avoid touching their face and to sneeze or cough into a tissue which should the be binned, or the crook of the arm if there is no tissue to hand).

Ventilation

Natural ventilation from open windows is positively encouraged both within the main open plan areas and especially in meeting rooms.

Air condition systems should be maintained and cleaned as usual.

Working hours

The working hours of colleagues can be discussed on a case by case basis to help colleagues who need to use public transport to commute at off-peak/less busy times.

The position should be monitored to ensure there is no overcrowding at the various points of entry into the office at certain times of the day. This is unlikely to be an issue given the access to the building however, the position will be monitored.

Work stations – Desk occupation

Where there is a cluster of 2 desks, and in particular those which face one another and the distance between the occupants of the two desks when seated is less than the recommended social distancing standard, then only one of those desks should be occupied at any one time.

Where there is a cluster of 4 desks, only the diagonally opposite 2 desk may be occupied at any one time. This ensures colleagues can remain 2 meters apart when working at their desk. This would be as per the diagram below.

2 banks of 4 desks:

Desk 1 – OK to occupyDesk 2 – To be left unoccupied
Desk 3 – To be left unoccupiedDesk 4 – OK to occupy

WALKWAY

Desk 5 – OK to occupyDesk 6 – To be left unoccupied
Desk 7 – To be left unoccupiedDesk 8 – OK to occupy

Where there is a cluster of 6 desks, only the two end desks on one side and the middle desk on the other side may be occupied at any one time. This ensures colleagues can remain 2 meters apart when working at their desk. This would be as per the diagram below.

2 banks of 6 desks

Desk 1 – OK to occupyDesk 2 – To be left unoccupiedDesk 3 – OK to occupy
Desk 4 – To be left unoccupiedDesk 5 – OK to occupyDesk 6 – Desk 2 – To be left unoccupied

WALKWAY

Desk 7 – OK to occupyDesk 8 – To be left unoccupiedDesk 9 – OK to occupy
Desk 10 – To be left unoccupiedDesk 11 – OK to occupyDesk 12 – To be left unoccupied

The above formats mean colleagues will never have to sit face to face or back to back with a colleague nor immediately next to a colleague.

Work Stations – General

  • At the start and end of each working day colleagues are required to clean their desk, telephone, monitor, chair, keyboard and mouse. Either antibacterial wipes or suitable antibacterial spray and paper towels will be made available to enable colleagues to do this. Where using antibacterial spray, please refer to the instructions on the bottle and leave to settle for the recommended contact time.
  • Each colleague coming back into the work place will be allocated a specific desk. Colleagues are not allowed to use another desk unless told otherwise by their Head of Department.
  • A clean desk policy will need to be introduced where any moveable items (such as pens, cups, glasses, stationary equipment such as hole punches and staplers, personal items, clothes, shoes) etc should be cleared away as appropriate at the end of each day. This will involve glasses, cups and mugs being taken to the kitchen, washed by the colleague concerned and returned to their desk after washing, stationary items should be placed in desk drawers and personal items should be either taken home or stored in desk drawers. This means your desk is clearer when it comes to cleaning it at the start and end of each day.
  • Each colleague will be provided with their own personal bottle of hand sanitiser to keep on their desk. These can be refilled once they are empty.
  • Items such as staplers, hole punches, pens and phones should not be shared. If you have a call for a colleague the handset should not be passed to a colleague, instead the call should be transferred to that colleague’s phone.
  • Signage should be placed around the building reminding colleagues to wash their hand regularly, clean their desk at the start and end of each day ad to report any issues they may have.

Working Groups

As more people come back into the office, which will be discussed on a department by department basis between Heads of Department and colleagues in their department, it may be appropriate to create work groups. This is where teams are split into distinct work groups with one group working in the office on certain days/weeks/times and another group working in the office on different days/weeks/times so that the two groups don’t come into contact with one another. The aim here is to minimise the number of different people each colleague comes into contact with in the office.

This could be done to ensure that a bank of desks is only occupied at one particular time by a reduced number of colleagues thus allowing social distancing between work stations or so that larger teams can minimise regular contact with as few of their colleagues as possible.

Section 4 – Clients/Visitors

As things stand, we will keep the office closed to visitors for the immediate future. As and when reception is re-opened and clients/visitors are welcomed back, additional guidance will be prepared as to how to keep both colleagues and visitors safe when in the offices (and in particular the waiting area and meeting rooms on the 6th floor) and how to communicate the relevant safety provisions to our clients/visitors.

In the meantime, all activity carried out with clients should wherever possible be carried out at a distance using e-mail, telephone or video conferencing rather than face to face. With regard to documents clients need to sign and return then such documents should be posted or e-mailed out to the along with signing instructions and the client should be encouraged to return such documents electronically (where we don’t need the signed original document) or by post in circumstances where we need the signed original document.  If for any reason there is a need to meet a client in person, colleagues should at all-time observe social distancing guidelines.

Contact Details

Should you have any queries in respect of this policy, please do not hesitate to contact your Head of Department in the first instance or Mark Deverell.