Am I liable if there are COVID infections in the workplace?

The decision to lift COVID restrictions this summer has been largely welcomed. However, it has not come without an equal amount of scepticism. Many of us are concerned that easing up completely could lead to increased infection rates, and for some business owners, the worry has been over whether they will be liable if their employees or customers contract COVID-19 on their premises. At the same time, there’s a desperate need for many of these businesses to finally reopen. With an evictions ban preventing commercial landlords from serving notice for a further nine months, the hospitality sector has already accrued a hefty £5 billion in rent debt. 

What are your areas of exposure as a business owner? 

It is a legal duty for employers to take reasonable care to ensure the health and safety requirements are met for their employees. The question of whether an employer is liable or not is a difficult question to answer, hinging on what should be considered as ‘reasonable’ and heavily dependent on causation. Can the employee in question prove where they contracted the disease without any doubt? Should a claim be made against an employer, factors such as severity and duration of infection would be considered, along with any potential loss in earnings over that period. So, it’s crucial that businesses continue to abide to the latest government guidance on safe work practices, especially for sector types that operate under conditions with increased physical contact such as delivery drivers and construction.

To avoid confusion for employers as well as consumers, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) have called for clearer guidance regarding legal liability from the government.   

How can you minimise risk and protect your workforce?  

Even though a large proportion of the UK adult population are now vaccinated, the rise in the number of variant strains makes it just as important to ensure you are prepared for a rise in cases in your local area, undertaking risk assessments and putting safety measures in place where necessary. For industry-specific guidance, you should refer to the GOV.UK website, which is routinely updated:

For more advice on how to protect your business interests in 2021, get in touch with our team today.

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