On April 1st, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) issued guidance for employers on living safely and reducing the spread of respiratory diseases such as COVID-19 to replace the previous ‘Working Safely Guidance’ after the relaxing of COVID-19 measures in the UK.
The guidance outlines ways employers can aim to reduce the spread of respiratory infections, including flu, which can spread easily and may cause serious illness in some people. To reduce the spread of such infections employers should consider ventilation, maintaining a clean work environment and encouraging staff to get vaccinated if they have not already done so.
The guidance has also removed some of the requirements that were previously in place for employers. Employers no longer need to report any outbreaks in the workplace of respiratory infections to local public health teams and the requirement for employers to explicitly consider COVID-19 in their health and safety risk assessment has also been removed. However, while the explicit requirement to consider COVID-19 in most employers’ risk assessments have been removed, employers still have statutory and common law health and safety duties to uphold and so may choose to continue to cover COVID-19 in their risk assessment
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has also released some key considerations for employers around the use of personal information as a result of the relaxation of COVID-19 measures. The ICO have suggested some questions that employers may want to ask themselves to help in deciding whether it is still necessary to retain this type of information:
- How will still collecting extra personal information help keep your workplace safe?
- Do you still need the information previously collected?
- Could you achieve your desired result without collecting personal information?
Employers also need to consider any additional information that has already been collected and retained and ensure that any such information is disposed of securely. The guidance also includes particular issues on collecting and recording vaccination status of employees and highlighting that if employers wish to continue to collect this information, it must be for a compelling and transparent reason. If collecting this type of data is not necessary for achieving the employer’s goal or employers are collecting data “just in case”, then it will be difficult to justify that it is a necessary collection.
The ICO also reminds employers that an individual’s vaccination status is ‘special category data’ under data protection law and requires extra protection.
Thank you to Izzy James for her help in drafting this blog post