Gorvins Solicitors/Gorvins Residential: Our response to Covid-19 and associated measures in the workplace.
Version 2 – 12th January 2021
SECTION 1 – INTRODUCTION AND KEY POINTS
Purpose of this document
Here at Gorvins (Gorvins LLP and Gorvins Residential LLP) we take the health, wellbeing and safety of all our colleagues (employees, partners and consultants) and those visiting our premises (clients, intermediaries or contractors) very seriously.
The aim of this document is to identify areas of risk associated with Covid-19 which apply to our colleagues, whether that be colleagues working from home or colleagues commuting from home to come into the office.
The World Health organisation (WHO) describe Covid-19 as follows:
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease. Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment, however symptoms can be mild, moderate, severe or fatal. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.
The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is be well informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes and how it spreads. Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol based rub frequently and not touching your face.
At this time, there are no specific vaccines or treatments for COVID-19
Symptoms of Covid-19
The symptoms of Covid-19 vary immensely. Some people can be asymptomatic (i.e. they don’t exhibit any symptoms). However, others may exhibit a range of symptoms which WHO list as follows:
Most common symptoms:
Less common symptoms:
If any colleague:
they MUST NOT COME TO WORK and MUST notify at the first opportunity HR and your Head of Department. You should follow the current Government “stay at home” guidance on self-isolating and household isolating
If anyone does contract Covid-19 and has a confirmed diagnosis to that effect, or lives in a household where a family member has a confirmed diagnosis of Covid-19, , or is told to self-isolate via the NHS “test and trace” system or NHS Coronavirus app, they MUST inform HR and your Head of Department as soon as possible.
You should only consider returning to work if you are able to end your period of self-isolation or household isolation in accordance with current Government Guidance.
If any colleague develops any of the above symptoms in the office they should immediately leave work and MUST notify HR and their Head of Department at the first opportunity return home and follow the above “stay at home” guidance on self-isolating.
Those with symptoms should get themselves tested to confirm whether or not their illness is in fact Covid-19. If you have a positive test you must not return to the office until you have passed the date which you have been notified of by test and trace and had a further test with a negative result. Test availability will depend on Government guidance on testing. You must liaise with your Head of Department and HR as to your plans and progress.
If a colleague reports that they have tested positive for Covid-19, the following procedure shall be followed:
Those at high risk
Whilst the health and wellbeing of all our colleagues and visitors to Gorvins’ premises is immensely important, particular attention needs to be paid to protect those who are at higher risk.
Clinically extremely vulnerable people will have received a letter telling them they are in this group, or will have been told by their GP. Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable need to inform HR and their Head of Department that they fall into this category as these individuals have been strongly advised by the Government not to work outside of their home.
Clinically vulnerable people refers to people who may be at increased risk from COVID-19, including those aged 70 or over and those with some underlying health conditions. Those who are clinically vulnerable need to inform HR and their Head of Department that they fall into this category and their role assessed with this in mind.
If a colleague lives with someone in their household who falls into the clinically extremely vulnerable category then they should pay particular attention to this guidance and social distancing guidelines when in the office.
Any colleague who falls into any of the above categories (i.e. they are clinically extremely vulnerable, clinically vulnerable or lives with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable, should also inform HR and their Head of Department of this fact before returning to the workplace so that an individual risk assessment can be carried out relating to their individual circumstances and the nature of their role with Gorvins.
Under RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) when a worker has been diagnosed as having COVID 19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This must be reported as a case of disease by Gorvins. Accordingly if anyone does contract Covid-19 and has a confirmed diagnosis to that effect, or lives in a household where a family member has a confirmed diagnosis of Covid-19, they MUST inform HR and your Head of Department to enable Gorvins to comply with our requirements under the RIDDOR.
Equality in the workplace
All colleagues need be treated equally and it is against the law to discriminate, directly or indirectly, against anyone because of a protected characteristic such as age, sex or disability.
SECTION 2 – GOVERNMENT GUIDANCE
The UK government has published specific guidance for businesses around Covid-19. This includes guides on “Good practice for employers”, “Social distancing in the workplace – principles” and “limiting the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) in business and the workplace” where the relevant section for us at Gorvins relates to “Offices and contact centres”.
The current fundamental messages from the Government guidance for those working in an office environment such as Gorvins are as follows:
SECTION 3 – SPECIFIC MEASURES FOR THOSE IN THE OFFICE
The measures set out at in this Section 3 must be followed by all members of colleagues when travelling to and from work and whilst in the office. These are designed to maintain the recommended social distancing measure wherever possible and therefore reduce the potential spread of Covid-19 between colleagues to keep our colleagues and their families as safe as possible.
Section 3 contains procedures (listed alphabetically) related to each of the following:
It is imperative that when in Dale House and the Gorvins’ office that all colleagues take responsibility for their actions and behaviours. Whilst this guidance is primarily around keeping colleagues safe when they are in the office, it is important that all colleagues follow the guidance set out in this document not only for their own safety but for that of their colleagues and their families. As such colleagues need to be conscious of their actions and how their actions may be viewed by others. By way of example, you may be comfortable whilst sat at your desk to have someone walk up to your desk and hand you some papers, however, other colleagues may not be comfortable with you doing the same to them. In this example if you are taking papers to a colleague you should stand back, let the colleague know you have some papers for them and ask if they want you to hand the papers to them or leave them on an adjoining desk where the colleague whom the papers are for can collect them once you have walked away.
Additionally, all colleagues need to take responsibility for their own actions. For example don’t assume another colleague has wiped down a kettle after they used it. As such if you are going to use the kettle please wipe it down before you use it.
Colleagues therefore need to be aware and mindful of their actions and how their actions may make another colleague feel uncomfortable. Equally, if a colleague feels uncomfortable by another colleague’s actions then they should not be afraid to speak up and say so and colleagues need to respect each other’s views and opinions in this regard in a polite and professional manner.
Colleagues will be responsible for the cleaning of their own workstations on a daily basis (see the section on “Workstations – General”) with appropriate cleaning materials provided by Gorvins.
Colleagues are responsible for cleaning objects and surfaces that they touch regularly such as door handles, photocopier touchscreens, kitchen surfaces and equipment. Adequate disposal facilities for any cleaning products and material used (e.g. paper towels/anti-bacterial wipes) will be provided.
Waste bins will be emptied as usual on a daily basis.
Clothes and bags
Clothes (including footwear) and bags brought in by a colleague must be stored at their desk (on the floor under their desk or on the back of their chair) and taken home at the end of the day. No such items should be left on site overnight.
A copy of this policy should be provided to any contractors who are required to attend our offices. These would include people such as those servicing equipment such as photocopiers and air conditioning units, window cleaners, our outsourced archive service provider and those collecting our waste paper for confidential GDPR compliant destruction.
Wherever possible contractor visits should be arranged to take place outside of office hours to reduce and minimise interaction between our colleagues working in the office and contractors wherever possible.
All contractors entering the premise should complete the Covid-19 visitor questionnaire where those visiting the offices will be asked to confirm their contact details as well as asking questions establishing that they have not recently tested positive for covid-a9, have not knowingly been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, have not recently travelled to a country from which they should self-isolate etc. These forms can be e-mailed out and returned electronically ahead of any contractor visiting site and these will also be available via the main reception desk for those who have not completed one in advance of their visit This is necessary for contact tracing purposes if required.
Entering Dale House
On entering Dale House colleagues should be mindful of touching anything within the common areas from door handles at the entrances through to handrails on the stairs and buttons in the lift, wash and/or sanitise their hand afterwards and not touch their face or eyes.
Any guidance issued by the landlord will be communicated to colleagues and this must be followed by all colleagues when in the communal areas of Dale House.
Colleagues are recommended to take the stairs where possible (without touching the handrails) and to try and only use the lifts in a situation where they are the only person in the lift. This also leaves the lifts available for those who physically need to use the lifts.
If it is necessary for a lift to be used, colleagues are recommended to use them on their own.
Entrance to Gorvins’ offices
The following measures shall be introduced at each set of double doors on the 4th, 5th and 6th floors:
It is important to note that wearing a face covering, and in particular a non-medical grade face covering (where medical grade face coverings/masks should be reserved for professional use in healthcare settings), does not protect the wearer from potentially contracting Covid-19. The only evidential benefit is that wearing a face mask may protect others from catching Covid-19 from the wearer if the wearer is infected but has not yet developed any symptoms.
Colleagues entering Dale House, moving around Dale House or the office or for whatever reason are unable to maintain an appropriate social distance from others should wear a face covering which can be removed when sat at your desk. Where colleagues do wear a face covering they should ensure that they wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (as per Government recommendations) before putting a face covering on, and after removing it.
Colleagues wearing a face covering should also take extra care to avoid touching their face or mask as they risk contaminating their face covering with germs from their hands.
Face coverings should be changed if they become damp or are touched.
Reusable face coverings should, if capable of being washed, be washed daily and if they can’t be washed they should be disposed of carefully each day.
Colleagues are encouraged to wear their own face covering which they find comfortable and should cover your mouth and nose. However, daily reusable face coverings will be available on site for those who don’t have their own and on reception for any visitors to the office who don’t have a face mask.
Kitchens/4th floor breakout room
Only one person at a time should use the kitchen area on the 5th and 6th floors so as to ensure appropriate social distancing. More than one person may use the 4th floor kitchen, however, please ensure that social distancing is observed.
Colleagues should only make food or drink for themselves (i.e. no “tea runs”).
Kitchens and kitchen areas should contain paper towels/anti-bacterial wipes so people can wash their hands and use them to wipe down surfaces and items such as kettles and water coolers before and after use. Suitable cleaning materials will also be positioned in each Kitchen area. There should also be foot operated pedal bins in each kitchen area for disposal of used paper towels/antibacterial wipes. By using foot operated pedal bins no one needs to therefore touch these with their hands and these bins will contain a bin liner which will be emptied once a day
Colleagues will need to be mindful of cross contamination of food products they bring from home and which are placed in fridges. Any food brought into the office should be brought in in a suitable “Tupperware” style container (as opposed to in tin foil or cling film) or in its original packaging (e.g. a pre-bought sandwich in a triangular package) where the “Tupperware” style container or packaging is wiped down with antibacterial wipes before being placed in the fridge.
Signage will be put on fridges reminding people to wash their hands before taking products out of the fridge and to wipe down containers and packaging before putting items into the fridge.
In light of the current social distancing requirements, the seating area in the 4th floor kitchen will be suspended until further notice and as such colleagues must take their lunch back to their desk to eat. Colleagues should therefore be considerate of their other colleagues with regard to their choice of food. Break times may also be staggered to avoid any overcrowding around kitchen areas at peak times.
The microwaves will remain available, however, they should be wiped down when used and any food warmed up should be eaten at the colleague’s desk and not in the 4th floor (or any other) kitchen area. Microwaves will be moved around so that there is at least one on each floor. Colleagues should try wherever possible to use the microwave and kitchen facilities on their own floor in the first instance.
Use remote meeting facilities wherever possible to avoid in-person meetings.
If meeting in-person only those absolutely necessary should attend the meeting and the social distancing standard should be maintained at all times.
In-person meetings between colleagues should take place in an appropriate sized meeting room. For example a training session for 6 colleagues should take place in the Boardroom so each colleague can maintain the current recommended distance from others. Such a session should not take place in a small meeting room such as Arkwright or the training room on the 5th floor.
If documents are being dropped off for a colleague by a client and for any reason this is done “in person” rather than via reception the colleague should meet the client to collect those documents using appropriate social distancing. This could for example involve the client coming up to say the 6th floor, the colleague meeting them there, the client leaving the documents on the windowsill, the client steps away and the colleague picks up the documents so that appropriate social distancing is maintained. This could also be done in the car park with documents being placed on a car windscreen by a client to be collected by the colleague once the client steps away. Clients dropping off documents on reception should be asked to leave them on the reception desk so social distancing can be maintained between the person making the drop-off and the Gorvins reception team.
Meeting rooms – 6th floor meeting room and 5th floor training room
All meeting rooms should contain a bottle of hand sanitiser and a pack of paper towels/antibacterial wipes.
Meeting Rooms will have signage on them indicating the maximum number of people who should use the meeting room concerned (and/or chairs will be removed or moved to one side to indicate how many people may use the meeting room concerned) so that the recommended social distancing standard can be maintained within each meeting room. Signage should also be used to remind and encourage colleagues about social distancing in the workplace and common sense should be used to ensure social distancing standards can be maintained when using meeting rooms.
Signage should be placed on each meeting room door encouraging people to (1) avoid touching door handles where possible (e.g. use elbows or a paper towel/antibacterial wipe) (2) maintain social distancing in the meeting room at all times (3) make use of the hand sanitiser and antibacterial wipes provided and (4) to keep the room naturally ventilated by opening the windows.
Working from home as some colleagues return to the office poses its own issues for some. Heads of Departments will stay in regular touch with those colleagues working from home so as to ensure colleagues don’t feel disconnected, isolated or abandoned. Any colleagues who are suffering from any issues affecting their mental health (e.g. stress) whether in the office or whilst working remotely are encouraged to raise such issues with their Head of Department, Team Leader, HR or any member of the equity partner group.
Moving around the building and offices
Colleagues on site are encouraged to consider their movements around their own floor and other floors and such movement should be kept to a minimum. This may involve phoning colleagues and speaking to them over the phone instead of leaving their desk to go and speak to a colleague.
Many manual systems that previously required (for example) the printing out of a form, that form being signed and then taken to another person, have been automated or can now be done electronically. Colleagues should make use of these new systems wherever possible.
Documents and other papers (e.g. post, printing etc) may be left by a colleague on the desk of another colleague when their desk is unoccupied or on an adjacent desk which is unoccupied.
The only department who may need access to the desk of another colleague is the IT department, although the IT department will try and deal with any IT related issues remotely in the first instance and only attend a desk when a remote fix is not possible. In such a situation the colleague seated at the desk must move away (at a safe distance) to allow the member of the IT department to access their desk and the member of the IT department must wipe down the desk, keyboard, mouse and chair arms when they sit down. Once the issue has been resolved, the colleague whose desk it is can (allowing a safe distance between any cross-over between themselves and the relevant member of the IT department) can return to their desk and they should then wipe down the desk, keyboard, mouse and chair arms before they sit down and continue to work.
Greeting colleagues (or others) with physical contact (e.g. a handshake or hug) should be avoided.
Photocopiers and printers
Hand sanitiser and cleaning materials will be made available next to each bank of photocopiers so colleagues can wipe down touch screens and the pull out keyboards before and after each use. This should be done before a photocopier is used by a colleague. Foot operated pedals bins will be placed by each photocopier for the disposal of any wipes used to wipe down such equipment. By using foot operated pedal bins no one needs to therefore touch these with their hands and these bins will contain a bin liner which will be emptied once a day
Post and goods inwards
Appropriate cleaning procedures will be implemented such that goods arriving into the office can be wiped down, opened and packaging destroyed. Goods should be opened in such a way as to minimise the risk of transmission of any germs on out packaging to the contents of the package.
Colleagues in the post room should either use gloves and dispose of them after use and/or wash /sanitise hands thoroughly after handling goods and post inwards.
Post room colleagues will be provided with suitable materials to wipe down goods inwards, dispose of any materials used and to sanitise their hands afterwards.
Travel to and from work
All colleagues are encouraged wherever possible to travel to and from work by a means of personal transport such as a car, motorbike, bicycle or on foot. By travelling to and from work by such a method, colleagues are less exposed to other members of the public whom they would not routinely come into contact with and are less likely to be touching or coming into contact with potentially contaminated surfaces or others who may have Covid-19.
Where colleagues have no option but to use public transport to travel into the workplace, they should follow all applicable social distancing guidelines for public transport issued by the government. Colleagues are advised to carry hand sanitiser with them to use after they have touched surfaces which other people may have touched (such as doors, seats, buttons for train doors, pedestrian crossing buttons etc) during their journey to work and they should wash their hands thoroughly on arrival at the office. Face coverings should be worn by colleagues who have to use public transport where mandated by Government and the then current social distancing guidelines for public transport.
If you have concerns over using public transport to travel to and from work, please raise this in the first instance with your Head of Department.
Signage will be placed around the offices.
This will either be specific signage relating to a particular issue (e.g. signage indicating only one person should be within the marked area around kitchen facilities or one person only in the 6th floor kitchen).
Or signage will be generic (e.g. signage and posters building awareness of good handwashing technique, the need to increase hand washing frequency, the fact people should avoid touching their face and to sneeze or cough into a tissue which should the be binned, or the crook of the arm if there is no tissue to hand).
Natural ventilation from open windows is positively encouraged both within the main open plan areas and especially in meeting rooms.
Air condition systems should be maintained and cleaned as usual.
The working hours of colleagues can be discussed on a case by case basis to help colleagues who need to use public transport to commute at off-peak/less busy times.
The position should be monitored to ensure there is no overcrowding at the various points of entry into the office at certain times of the day. This is unlikely to be an issue given the access to the building however, the position will be monitored.
Work stations – Desk occupation
Where desks are situated “face-to-face”, they may be used by both sets of users at the same time where the distance between the users of those desks is 2 meters or more.
Where desks are adjacent to one another or “back to back”, they may be used where users sit “side to side” or “back to back” and the distance between the two users is 1.5m or more.
Work Stations – General
It may be appropriate to create work groups which will be discussed on a department by department basis between Heads of Department and colleagues in their department. This is where teams are split into distinct work groups with one group working in the office on certain days/weeks/times and another group working in the office on different days/weeks/times so that the two groups don’t come into contact with one another. The aim here is to minimise the number of different people each colleague comes into contact with in the office.
This could be done to ensure that a bank of desks is only occupied at one particular time by a reduced number of colleagues thus allowing social distancing between work stations or so that larger teams can minimise regular contact with as few of their colleagues as possible.
Section 4 – Clients/Visitors
All activity carried out with clients should wherever possible be carried out at a distance using e-mail, telephone or video conferencing rather than face to face. With regard to documents clients need to sign and return then such documents should be posted or e-mailed out to the along with signing instructions and the client should be encouraged to return such documents electronically (where we don’t need the signed original document) or by post in circumstances where we need the signed original document. If for any reason there is a need to meet a client in person, colleagues should at all-time observe social distancing guidelines.
If it is necessary to meet a client (or contact) in the office then that client should be e-mailed the relevant version of the Covid-19 questionnaire ahead of visit and be asked to complete this and either e-mail it back ahead of their visit or bring it with them to the meeting. If necessary blank forms will be kept on reception for clients to complete on their arrival.
Clients should be asked to wear a mask when in, and moving around, the office, albeit this can be removed during the meeting if both the client and colleague are comfortable to do so. Social distancing should be maintained throughout the meeting and meeting rooms should be naturally ventilated where possible. Surfaces (e.g. door handle, tables and chairs) should be wiped down before and after the meeting with your client. The Bradshaw meeting room has had a screen installed and this room should be used where a screen is deemed appropriate (e.g. an elderly client who is hard of hearing and needs to see someone speaking to understand them). Meeting rooms should wherever possible be ventilated between uses by opening the windows where possible.
Should you have any queries in respect of this policy, please do not hesitate to contact your Head of Department in the first instance or Mark Deverell or Christian Mancier.
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Gorvins Residential LLP