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What should your boss be doing to protect you from coronavirus?

PUBLISHED: 11:43 11 March 2020

How your boss should be protecting you from coronavirus in Suffolk, UK.  Picture: AP/LEE JIN-MAN

How your boss should be protecting you from coronavirus in Suffolk, UK. Picture: AP/LEE JIN-MAN

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

With the number of coronavirus cases in the UK still going up, an Ipswich lawyer has explained what your employer should be doing to keep you safe.

Matthew Gowen, a partner at Birketts Solicitors, has outlined what bosses need to be doing to protect their employees from the virus.

He said: 'It is a well known principle in health and safety law that employers are under a duty to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their employees and non-employees.'

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Normally the employer is only responsible for the risks created by their work, not risks that are present in everyday life, but Mr Gowen points out that coronavirus could blur these boundaries.

He said: 'According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website employers and businesses should follow the guidelines according to the government website and should be regularly checking this for updates.'

The government website gives advice such as should people wear surgical masks to work, how to deal with dirty tissues from an infected person, and when people should self isolate.

Mr Gowen said: 'If they are following this guidance and regularly updating their employees, it is unlikely that an employer would find themselves at the other end of an investigation by the HSE.'

He pointed out the difficulty in working out where somebody contracted it: 'In the event of an individual contracting the virus, it could be evidentially difficult for the HSE to prove (beyond reasonable doubt) the source which led to that particular individual coming down with the virus; whether as a result of an employer's breach of duty or the actions of the employee or non-employee externally. That said, employers must continue to do all that is reasonably practicable to ensure health and safety - all the HSE have to do ultimately is prove that there is a risk and that an employer has failed to manage in these terms.'

In the worst case scenario the government estimate that at any one time up to a fifth of workers could be off because of coronavirus.

Mr Gowen said it was important for employers to have a plan for if this happens. But, he added: 'Businesses should be careful not lose sight of the day to day risks that it creates due to the increased focus on COVID-19.'

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