U.K. Employers Told to Protect Staff From Virus or Be Prosecuted

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“Employers have a duty to keep employees safe in the workplace — that is absolutely enshrined in law,” Business Secretary Alok Sharma said at a press briefing from Downing Street on Tuesday.

The government is trying to encourage people who can’t work from home to return to their workplaces from Wednesday as it seeks to reopen the economy. That effort depends partly on people believing that it’s safe to go back amid the threat of a second wave of the virus. Sharma has been working with labor unions and business groups to set guidelines for employers.

Sarah Albon, who runs the Health and Safety Executive, said firms that breach Covid-19 rules could ultimately be prosecuted. “Inspectors can require businesses to do certain things,” including issuing enforcement notices requiring them to take action, she said. “Breach of those kind of enforcement notices is essentially a criminal offense, and we can prosecute people who fail to do the right thing.”

Maximum penalties for breaching U.K. health and safety rules include unlimited fines or prison.

No Hot Desking: the U.K. Plan for the Workplace After Lockdown

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