ENG1 is a UK certification standard, designed to show that a seafarer passes a minimum standard of health before working offshore. It must be performed by an MCA recognised doctor. We are pleased to announce Hawkes Health now have have a certified physician within their Dundee clinic. Appointments are available from June 14th 2022.

Regulations amending the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (PPE Regulations) come into force on 6 April 20221. They will ensure that all workers – not just employees – are provided with the same level of PPE protection. 

The changes were required in response to a High Court judgment2 in November 2020. As reported in this journal3, the court determined that the UK had failed to implement fully two EU directives – Article 8(4) and 8(5) of the Framework Directive (89/391/EEC) and Article 3 of the Personal Protective Equipment Directive (89/656/EEC) – into UK law.  

In bringing a claim for judicial review, the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain argued that in failing to transpose properly the two directives, many workers in the gig economy had not been given the required legal protection. The union complained that the directives required member states to confer certain protections on ‘workers’, whereas UK legislation referred only to ‘employees’ – a gap that had existed since 31 December 1992 when national laws came into force. 

The amendments to the PPE Regulations 1992 will affect employers that engage ‘dependent contractors’, who do not come under the scope of the current legislation. Broadly speaking, these are workers who are registered as self-employed but provide services as part of someone else’s business. Such workers receive holiday pay but do not have other employment rights (such as a minimum statutory notice period) and are not in business for themselves.  

Responses to the public consultation on amending the legislation were generally positive, with most respondents agreeing that the amendments would be beneficial, for example through better protection of workers’ health and safety4. The HSE will publish updated guidance to support businesses impacted by the changes and ensure that workers are aware of their rights in respect of PPE at work. 

  1. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2022/8/contents/made 
  2. [2020] EWHC 3050 (admin)  
  3. Ballard J. Gig workers should be protected. Occupational Health at Work 2021; 17(5): 11–13 (subscription required). 
  4. Amendments to the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992: consultation response. Bootle: HSE, 2021 

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest that 1.3 million people (2% of the UK adult population) were experiencing self-reported ‘long COVID’ in December 20211. Significantly, more than half a million people said they had persistent symptoms at least 12 months after first having COVID-19. 

Long COVID is defined as symptoms persisting for more than four weeks after the first suspected COVID-19 infection that are not explained by some other cause. Of people with self-reported long COVID: 

  • 270,000 (21%) first had (or suspected they had) COVID-19 less than 12 weeks previously 
  • 892,000 people (70%) first had/suspected they had COVID-19 at least 12 weeks previously 
  • 506,000 (40%) first had/suspected they had COVID-19 at least one year previously 
  • fatigue was the most commonly reported symptom (reported by 51% with long COVID), followed by loss of smell (37%), shortness of breath (36%) and difficulty concentrating (28%) 
  • proportionally, long COVID was more common in people aged 35–69, women, those living in more deprived areas, people working in healthcare, social care or education, and those with another health impairment or disability. 

An estimated 809,000 people (64% of those with self-reported long COVID) believed that they had symptoms that adversely affected their day-to-day activities. In total, 247,000 (20%) people reported that the impact had been significant (activities were ‘limited a lot’) – of whom 112,000 had symptoms that had lasted at least 52 weeks. The self-reported estimates were derived from people responding to a representative survey, rather than through clinical diagnoses. 

An evidence review on returning to work after long COVID has been published by the HSE2. It summarises scientific evidence published up to the end of March 2021, but is based on just seven research papers meeting inclusion criteria. ‘There is a global need for large and long-term cohort studies with mixed methods (qualitative and quantitative) in order to better understand the long-term consequences of COVID-19,’ the report concludes.  

The review recommends following existing long COVID return-to-work guidelines published by the Faculty of Occupational Medicine3.

  1. Prevalence of ongoing symptoms following coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the UK: 6 January 2022. Newport: ONS, 2022 
  2. Return to work after long COVID: Evidence at 8th March 2021. Evidence Report ER003. Bootle: HSE, 2021 
  3. Guidance for healthcare professionals on return to work for patients with long COVID. London: FOM, 2021 

The Faculty Of Occupational Medicine has updated its Guidance on post-COVID syndrome.

The Guidance for healthcare professionals aims to assist them on return to work for people with post-COVID syndrome.

This Guidance for managers and employers aims to help them in facilitating the return to work of employees who may find this difficult because of post-COVID syndrome. The Faculty hopes that members will share this document with employers.

Both guides have been developed by a multidisciplinary group under the leadership of our Academic Dean, Professor Ira Madan. Commenting on the updated Guidance, she said:
“Post-COVID syndrome is a challenging illness for healthcare professionals and employers to manage. This guidance provides practical steps aimed at supporting the worker back into employment.”

In its COVID-19 response: autumn and winter plan 2021 document, published on 14 September, the UK central government said it would take whatever action necessary to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed, but more harmful economic and social restrictions, such as shop closures or lockdowns, would only be considered as a last resort.The Plan sets out how the government intends to address the challenges that may be posed by COVID-19 through autumn and winter, while ensuring that the NHS is not put under unsustainable pressure. The plan is set out in two parts: Plan A and Plan B.

What is Plan A?

Plan A is the course that the government wants to see the country follow through autumn and winter. However, it recognises that the pandemic may change course rapidly and unexpectedly and the future remains hard to predict. There are a number of variables which include levels of vaccination, how immunity to the virus wanes over time, how quickly and widely social contact returns to pre-pandemic levels, particularly with schools and offices reopening, and whether a new variant emerges.

What is Plan B?

The government recognises that this winter could be particularly difficult for the NHS due to the impacts of COVID-19 adding to the usual increase in emergency demand and seasonal respiratory diseases, such as flu. The government anticipates the realistic possibility that the impact of flu (and other seasonal viruses) may be greater this winter than in a normal winter due to very low levels of flu over winter 2020-21.  As a contingency, the Plan therefore “outlines a Plan B in England which would only be enacted if the data suggests further measures are necessary to protect the NHS”. In assessing the risk to the NHS, the key metrics include hospital occupancy for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients, intensive care unit capacity, admissions in vaccinated individuals, and the rate of growth of hospital admissions.

Plan B would be put into operation where data suggests measures are necessary to protect the NHS.

Under plan B, the steps that the government considers may be needed to help control transmission of the virus while seeking to minimise economic and social impacts are:

  • Communicating clearly and urgently to the public that the level of risk has increased, and with it the need to behave more cautiously.
  • Introducing mandatory vaccine-only COVID-status certification in certain settings, such as at night clubs and large-scale events.
  • Legally mandating face coverings in certain settings (which will be decided at the time).
  • Asking people to work from home if they can, for a limited period.

FSB has said that businesses of all sizes will need help to prepare for likely scenarios, and at the moment the information is too light – for example there is nothing on what triggers are likely to cause the shift from Plan A to Plan B.  One week’s notice is also very tight.  FSB will be consulted on the next evolution of the safer workplace guidance, and will communicate with members.

One area missing from the plan as it stands is free workplace testing, which has now closed, and FSB will be pushing for its reinstatement if any restrictions are required.  The government states that as much prior notice as possible of these steps being implemented will be given to the public and Parliament, with updated guidance to businesses and the public being issued.

The government recognises that working from home causes more disruption and has greater immediate costs to the economy and some businesses than the other Plan B interventions, so a final decision would be made based on the data at the time.

However, it recognises that high levels of homeworking have played an important role over the past 18 months in preventing sustained epidemic growth in recent months. By re-introducing this measure, the government would be seeking to reduce the transmission risk inside and outside of the workplace, including by reducing the number of people taking public transport and the number of face-to-face meetings and social activities, and thereby reducing community and household transmission.

Employers and employees will of course be well-versed in homeworking as an emergency response to the pandemic, so procedures will already have been in place which employers can reinstate should this become necessary in England under the Government’s ‘plan B’. FSB members have access to the FSB Legal Hub, which includes a homeworking policy where this is introduced as a temporary measure due to Covid-19 and health and safety guidance in relation to homeworking.

And if a greater response is needed?

The Plan concludes that beyond Plan B “more harmful economic and social restrictions would only be considered as a last resort”.  The government anticipates that due to the vaccination programme, it should be possible to handle a further resurgence of COVID-19 cases with less damaging measures than the lockdowns and economic and social restrictions deployed in the past.

It is worth noting, however, that beyond communication and guidance there is no mention in the Plan of what government financial support will be available for businesses should restrictions need to be reintroduced or as to whether, as part of plan B or beyond, a furlough scheme and other government coronavirus schemes would be reintroduced in England should emergency measures be put back into place.  FSB is arguing that the flipside for any restrictions being brought in should be business support, which led to the flagship support schemes in 2020 and 2021 that helped millions of small businesses (with the exception of income support for limited company directors).

Economy boosting step backed by move to clamp down on poor performers.

People will be able to use private sector tests when returning, or visiting, from green or amber list countries under a change to international travel restrictions.

The step will allow people to choose from a list of approved providers when booking the tests they will need to take after arriving in Scotland.

People previously had to book NHS home PCR tests via the UK Government’s booking portal.

The opportunity to ease the restriction – which will come into effect in early September – has been made possible by enhanced monitoring of the performance and reliability of private testing providers to ensure public health safeguards are maintained. There is also the additional safeguard of removing any provider that does not meet stringent performance measures.

Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care Humza Yousaf said:

“The step provides more choice and flexibility for travellers and will provide a boost for the tourism and aviation sector.

“We have had regular engagement with the UK Government to understand the measures being taken to ensure test results will be communicated rapidly and reliably to both individuals and to contact tracing services.

“We have also been reassured that any positive results will be genomically sequenced to quickly identify any variants of concern.

“The decision carefully weighs the benefit to the travel sector against our responsibility to the wider public health, and is a further endorsement of the resounding success of our domestic vaccination roll out.”

Background

The current list of eligible test providers can be found on the gov.uk website.

Since 17 May, international travellers arriving in Scotland have been required to comply with certain requirements or restrictions, depending on which country they have arrived from. This can include self-isolation and undertaking tests at specified points after their arrival.

Self-isolation is no longer required for international travellers arriving from amber list countries, provided they are fully vaccinated through a UK, EU or USA vaccination programme and take a PCR test on the second day after arrival.

The Food Standards Scotland (FSS) COVID-19 webpage has now been updated following the move into beyond COVID-19 Level 0 allowing all venues and businesses to open with most legal restrictions removed. However, a baseline set of mitigation measures is to be retained across all sectors, and these are detailed in Scottish Government’s general safer workplaces guidance which aims to support businesses in controlling the risks of COVID-19 beyond Level 0.

To assist food businesses in translating the measures in the Scottish Government safer workplaces guidance, FSS has updated its risk assessment tool which will support FBOs in identifying and documenting the actions they need to take to prevent the spread of COVID-19, whilst maintaining an effective Food Safety Management System (FSMS). The tool provides a way of allowing all FBOs to document the measures they have taken, and demonstrate that these are being maintained on an on-going basis to ensure their staff and customers are protected from the risks of COVID-19.

FSS has also updated its guidance for FBOs on the investigation of COVID-19 outbreaks. This has been developed in collaboration with Public Health Scotland (PHS) which aims to help food businesses understand how decisions will be taken when an outbreak of COVID-19 is identified in their workforce. This guidance is split into two main sections which describes what FBOs are expected to know in relation to controlling COVID-19 in the workplace, and how to prepare for an IMT.

This guidance package is essential for all food businesses operating throughout the current stage of the pandemic. Using the resources supplied by FSS and Scottish Government will also support FBOs in engaging with their employees on the management of COVID-19 risks to ensure a safe working environment, in accordance with the joint statement on ‘fair work expectations during the transition out of lockdown’ signed by The Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work & Culture, CoSLA, the Institute of Directors and Scottish Council for Development & Industry, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and the STUC.

Hawkes Health are offering the flu vaccinations to all our clients. With employer/employee vaccination programmes running from September through January, we can provide protection for your entire workforce.

The flu vaccine provides robust protection against the flu virus. It is safe, only takes a few minutes and will last around a year. Influenza can make people very unwell.

Offering your employees the flu vaccine, demonstrates care and commitment to your staff, both in the work environment and at home. Vaccination can and does reduce winter absenteeism.

We are delighted to become Fife Chamber of Commerce’s latest Premier Partner. Hawkes Health is a leading provider of occupational health services, both in the UK and internationally.

https://www.fifechamber.co.uk/news/2021/august/hawkes-health-makes-its-mark-fife-and-becomes-latest-fife-chamber-commerce-premier

We, as a family firm, are delighted to announce the promotion of Ellie Hawkes our current communication and marketing specialist to board Director. Her contribution over the last two years steering us through these challenging times has been immeasurable.

Hawkes Associates (UK) Limited T/A Hawkes Health registered company number: SC445091. Achilles First Point (FPAL) Supplier Number: 10055672.