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How Contractors Can Return to Work Safely


On Sunday 10th May, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced changes to the lockdown restrictions, as the first step in a staged lifting, the intention being to allow the UK to “re-open” while avoiding the danger of increasing the infection rate.

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 This first stage involves asking people who are unable to work from home to travel to work. This is a change from the previous wording, which said people should only travel to work if they must.

Employers are instructed to make workplaces safe before asking employees to return. There is a question, though, about how this relates to contractors, particularly those who are employed by an umbrella company. If you’re an umbrella company employee, your employer may never see your workplace, so how can you make sure you’re protected?

Who is responsible for ensuring contractors are safe at work?

You end client is obviously responsible for health and safety at their premises. However, because your umbrella company is your employer, they are responsible for your health and safety at work. Your umbrella will have a process for reporting health and safety issues at client sites, and this includes the danger of infection during the pandemic. Your umbrella should work with agencies and clients to get any issues resolved.

Detailed guidance has been released for employers on how to work safely during the pandemic, with specific guidance for different types of workplaces. There is a lot of detail, and it’s worth reading through whichever guide relates to you. This guidance will tell you which measures your end client is expected to put in place before you return to work on their premises. 

Should you travel to work?

The Government is still clear that anyone who can work from home should continue to do so “for the foreseeable future”. Only those who can’t feasibly work from home should travel to work, and then only once risk assessments have been completed and appropriate safety procedures put in place.

You should also stay at home if you are unwell, or if you’re self-isolating in line with government guidance.

How should you travel to work?

Social distancing measures will significantly reduce the capacity of public transport, so it makes sense to use your own transport if at all possible. If you can, you’re advised to walk or cycle to work and failing that you should travel alone in your own vehicle. If you absolutely must share a vehicle, you’re advised to keep the number of people as small as possible, always share with the same people, and to open the windows to improve ventilation.

Social distancing

This is now a familiar instruction – you should remain at least 2 metres away from other people wherever possible. Your end client is expected to take all reasonable steps to make help staff do this, including staggering start times, creating one-way walk-throughs, opening more entrances and exits and changing seating layouts.

Manage transmission risk

The main things you can do to manage the risk of transmission are to maintain social distancing, avoid touching your face, wash your hands often, and cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Make sure you wash your hands on leaving and arriving at work and at home, and after contact with touchpoints like door handles and keyboards.

More frequent cleaning

You can expect your workplace to be cleaned more frequently and handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers should be provided at entrances and exits.

If you have any questions or if we can help in any way, please call our expert team on 01296 468 483 or email info@orangengie.com.


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