News & Updates

Broadcast November 2020

Welcome to this month’s Broadcast, where we have two articles from our Health & Safety team, covering lots of advice around coping with the pandemic, with some specifically for schools. Dan, from our HR Team sets out the guidance for employing non-UK citizens after Brexit, and finally, the Compliance Team talks through which of their services are particularly useful during a pandemic.

H&S UPDATE 1: Is it beginning to look a lot like Christmas?

With the second national lockdown not forecast to end until December 2nd, it is only natural to wonder if Christmas this year will resemble anything like that of years gone by. One thing that we can guarantee this coming festive period is the continued need for vigilance and conscientiousness when it comes to the health and safety of ourselves and those around us.

As the current pandemic hits the headlines week after week, pressure on businesses has increased to adequately meet the criteria of the ‘new normal’ – this has understandably led to headaches and heartaches for all of us in the employment arena. The prospect of having a ‘Zoom’ Christmas with family members and friends has also added to the brew that has made 2020 taste very bitter. 

With that in mind, here are some suggestions and tips for keeping happy and healthy this festive period:

Stay up to date
The government official guidelines for COVID-19 are changing day-by-day. This is understandably problematic for businesses who must make operational decisions based on the information provided.

Always check the gov.uk website for the latest information. Still unsure? Contact Stallard Kane who can help you make sense of it all.

Keep in regular contact with colleagues, family, and friends
Mental health issues are on the rise this year and it is not hard to see why. Some people are finding themselves separated from family, friends, and loved ones. Some people are finding themselves newly unemployed. Some people are finding themselves trying to keep a business afloat. Such uncertain times exacerbate mental health problems and can negatively affect those closest to us.

Businesses can help their staff manage their mental health by promoting mental health awareness, having mental health ‘champions’ and treating mental and physical health as equally important.

We will all have mental health issues at some time in our lives. It is more important than ever to communicate with one another. Whether it is your home family or work family, have that conversation, make that phone call, send that message. You never know, you might just help save a life.

Act today with Stallard Kane. We offer top quality mental health awareness and mental health first aider training – contact training@skaltd.co.uk or call on 01427 678660.

If you are struggling mentally or contemplating harming yourself, please call Samaritans now on 116 123 for free.

Stay compliant
Whether it is your fixed mains electrical inspection, annual health and safety audit, fire extinguisher service or any other compliance service that your business needs, it is important to keep on top of them. Being proactive with your compliance requirements gives your business the freedom to focus on doing what your business does best.

Encourage employees to be involved in the compliance process. Where possible, giving employees ownership of the compliance process within their role (i.e. undertaking daily equipment checks, reporting issues with equipment, tools, etc) will help reassure them that their safety is taken seriously and they have control over their workspace.

Where businesses have been closed for a period of time due to lockdown or downturn, ensure that a clear, suitable and sufficient COVID-19 policy is developed with robust and defined control measures to give staff reassurance that their welfare is of the utmost concern.

When it comes to COVID-19 compliance, businesses should be looking to do all they can to prevent the spread of the virus. Things like minimising touch points, face-to-face contact, maintaining social distancing and wearing masks where social distancing cannot be maintained are good starting points. Again, the government has provided guidance on how to be COVID secure in the workplace at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19.

Individuals can help themselves and others by wearing masks when in shops and other essential businesses, cleaning hands regularly, maintaining social distancing and following the guidance set out by the government.

From portable appliance testing to asbestos surveys and everything in between, contact SK Compliance on compliance@skaltd.co.uk or 01427 678 660 (option 5).

Understanding what is classed as a ‘contact’
Imagine it is first thing Monday morning and you get a phone call from one of your staff telling you they have tested positive for COVID-19. They are now self-isolating for two weeks and you must now determine if they have been in ‘contact’ with anyone else in your staff or those affected by your business. For some, this scenario has been only too real – and unclear. So, what exactly is a ‘contact’?

A ‘contact’ is a person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 anytime from two days before the person was symptomatic up to 10 days from onset of symptoms (this is when they are infectious to others). For example, a contact can be:

  • people who spend significant time in the same household as a person who has tested positive for COVID-19
  • sexual partners
  • a person who has had face-to-face contact (within one metre), with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, including:
    • being coughed on
    • having a face-to-face conversation within one metre
    • having skin-to-skin physical contact, or
    • contact within one metre for one minute or longer without face-to-face contact
  • a person who has been within 2 metres of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes
  • a person who has travelled in a small vehicle with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or in a large vehicle or plane near someone who has tested positive for COVID-19

Always advise the person who has tested positive for COVID-19 to contact the Test and Trace service. They will be able to help determine who the person has had ‘contact’ with. Test and Trace can be found at https://contact-tracing.phe.gov.uk or via the Test and Trace app.

Where COVID-19 is involved, it is not worth taking the risk. If you have a COVID-19 case within your business and need further guidance, contact Stallard Kane on 01427 678 660.

Take time to rest, disconnect, and reflect
We live in a hyper-connected 24/7 society where everyone and everything is vying for your attention, which leads to burnout, stress, disenchantment, and general exhaustion. Rest is often forgotten as a key part of any self-care routine and when utilised deliberately can yield amazing results.

So, try putting the phone away for an evening a week, turn off the TV. Take stock of what you have and what you are grateful for.

Remember, use things, and love people. The other way round never works.

I also recommend getting outside and taking regular exercise. Advice I need to take myself…

In conclusion….
It has been a rollercoaster of a year to date, and there will no doubt be more twists and turns before we usher in 2021. But if we remain vigilant, steadfast, and anchored to positive health and safety values, we will come out the other side of this winter period fit, healthy, and ready to make the most of the new year.

HR UPDATE: Employing non-UK citizens after Brexit 

The UK has now left the EU and as of 2021, there will be new rules and regulations surrounding the employment of EU nationals. 

Please note that how you currently check EU, EEA or Swiss citizens’ right to work in the UK has not changed. They can still use their passport or National Identity Card until 30 June 2021, and you will not be required to undertake retrospective checks on existing EU employees.

After 30 June 2021, new immigration rules for recruiting people from outside the UK will apply and organisations will also require a sponsor licence to employ EEA and Swiss citizens coming to the UK to work from 1 January 2021.

Here we provide an overview of what we know so far, however we are anticipating the release of updated right to work in the UK guidance in due course.  

The EU Settlement Scheme… 
The EU settlement scheme allows EU citizens currently living in the UK to apply for either a pre-settled or a settled status, both of which enable that individual to continue living and working in the UK. To be eligible to apply under the EU settlement scheme, the applicant must be living in the UK by no later than 31st December 2020. 

A settled status may be granted where the applicant has continuously lived in the UK for at least five years. Once granted, the individual may remain working in the UK for as long as they wish. 

A pre-settled status may be granted where the applicant has lived in the UK for less than five years. Once granted, the individual may remain working in the UK for up to five years.  

The deadline to apply for the EU settlement scheme is 30th June 2021 and as an employer, there is no legal obligation for you to make your staff aware of the EU settlement scheme. However, you may wish to direct employees to the information that the government is providing. The scheme is free to apply. 

The new points-based immigration system… 
For anyone arriving and seeking work in the UK on or after the 1st January 2021, there will be certain criteria which must be met. Such criteria include A-Level equivalent qualifications and minimum earnings of £25,600. However, depending on the profession, minimum earnings could be higher. The new points-based system will look to give top priority to highly skilled workers, students, and a range of other specialist work routes.

For someone to be eligible to apply, a total of 70 points needs to be achieved. This could mean an employee may be eligible for the scheme but earn under the £25,600 limit, if other criteria points are met.

An overview of proposed points criteria… 

Offer of job approved sponsorNo20
Job at appropriate skill levelNo20
Speaks English at required level No10
Salary £20,480 (Minimum) – £23,039Yes0
Salary £23,040 – £25,599Yes10
Salary of £25,600Yes20
Job in a shortage occupationYes20
Education Qualification: PHD relevant in jobYes10
Education Qualification: PHD in a subject relevant to the jobYes20

A Sponsorship Licence… 
From January 2021, employers will require a sponsor license should they wish to hire skilled people from EEA countries. If a sponsor license is approved, it is valid for four years, with the option to be renewed after expiry. 

The application process is online via the Government website, and, alongside the application form, there is a need to send evidence in support of the application process. The usual process involves sending such evidence via post, certified by a solicitor. However, there may be the option to send these electronically as a result of the current pandemic. 

The important thing to remember is that any supporting documents must be received within five working days of the submission of the application, otherwise the application process will be restarted. 

The application process normally takes eight to ten weeks to be reviewed and it is also common for a compliance officer to conduct a pre-license audit as part of the process, with a view to ensuring the organisation has correct processes in place. 

Should you require further advice, contact your designated advisor or contact the HR team on 01427 678 660 (option 2) or email hr@skaltd.co.uk

H&S UPDATE 2: Best practice advice for schools during the pandemic

2020 has not exactly been your typical year by any means. With COVID somewhat summing up the year in one word, we have seen it change many aspects of life from work to education, from sports to social lives. At some point this year they have all been put on hold.

Thankfully, despite a second national lockdown, the educational system is being allowed to continue under strict social distancing measures, and with numerous control measures in place. Schools, naturally, are an area of concern for a lot of people, worrying about the safety of their children and family members. This can put a lot of pressure on schools to ensure they are doing everything correctly. 

One of the main areas of concern from a school point of view is getting some parents/guardians to co-operate with rules and measures when dropping off or collecting their child from the school grounds. Whilst some will say simply monitor the school grounds and remind adults of the measures in place, encouraging them to comply it does not always work. There will always be someone who disagrees with the rules, measures, the pandemic in general. Everyone has their own interpretation of the current national situation. Realistically, from a school perspective, there is only so much a school can do and there is only so far a school can go. However, that does not mean giving in to the situation is the best way to go about it. Schools can control the situation better by implementing certain measures. 

So what can be done?
The first thing to take into consideration is ensuring that parents are made aware to only drop off/pick up their children where necessary. If a family is in a position to allow the children to get themselves to and from school, then to do so accordingly. This doesn’t apply to all schools, especially those with younger children or those who are in need of more assistance due to disabilities. However, wherever this is viable, it should be considered, as it will result in less people being on the school grounds. Something that could be implemented is a ‘one parent/carer per child’ policy on school grounds. 

One of the main measures that can be considered is staggering the pick-up and drop off times. A lot of schools work with a ‘student bubble’ system. This obviously helps with distancing all the children and being able to identify who needs to self-isolate if there is a breakout of the virus. This can also benefit the school when it comes to narrowing down the amount of people on the school grounds at any given time. By giving a specific ‘bubble’ a designated drop off and pick up time, distancing the parents will be remarkably easier. With regards to children who may be late and miss their allotted time for entering the school, an alternative procedure should be in place, such as the parent walking the child to reception, but not entering the building. 

The staggered drop off/pick up times might not always be viable, most likely due to the size of a school. If this is the case, then the school can consider adopting an approach where each ‘student bubble’ has a designated area of the school where they are picked up/dropped off. This will at the very least spread out the amount of parents/guardians. What could be done in addition to this is implement a one-way system throughout the school, in one way, out another.  

Another measure to have in place is more obvious and should not really be new to anyone this year – face coverings. In regard to this there is no change to the existing position. It is not mandatory for staff and visitors to wear face coverings. In situations where social distancing between adults in certain settings is not possible (for example when moving around in corridors and communal areas), schools can use their discretion to recommend the use of face coverings for adults on site, for both staff and visitors. Ideally the best practice will be to display signs indicting masks should be worn, again this is not a legal requirement, but it is highly recommended. 

Encouraging good hygiene from all adults and children is a good message to deliver. Promoting the classic ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ phrase can help with preventing the spread of the virus on the off chance someone is infected. Following on from this, hand sanitising stations should be deployed around the site, in particular near doorways or areas where people will come into contact with an object or obstruction e.g. doors and gates. These should be monitored and refilled regularly. Signs should be displayed to encourage the use of these stations throughout the premises.

Parents/guardians should avoid entering the building where necessary, those who do should continue to follow the NHS test and trace process. The school should have the appropriate barcode ready for them to scan.

It’s important to communicate regularly with the parents/guardians of pupils. As previously stated, not everyone is going to follow the rules, but some may not even be aware of them. Emailing or sending letters out to parents setting out what you expect when they come onto the premises can help enforce what is necessary. Information can be added to the school website and any social media platforms you may have. Social media, as we all know, plays a large part in everyone’s life nowadays, so it may be best to go down that route as it will be more likely to be seen by parents/carers.

COMPLIANCE UPDATE: Extra services to help you through the pandemic

Whether your business is still operating, or you plan to get back to work soon, there’s a good chance you may need some additional assistance to help tackle the COVID-19 virus.

Decontamination cleaning
If you’ve had an outbreak of coronavirus cases on your premises, or you need to prepare for people returning to your premises, a decontamination clean is recommended. This can either be carried out with fogging or the use of an ozone machine. SK Compliance can carry this out for you, or alternatively, we can supply fogging or ozone machines should you wish to carry the cleaning out yourself. Fogging machines can also be particularly useful should you need to regularly decontaminate a certain area of your premises between use.

Occupational Health Surveillance
Occupational Health Surveillance involves a system of ongoing health checks, which are required by law for employees who are exposed to noise or vibration, ionising radiation, solvents, fumes, dusts, biological agents and other substances hazardous to health, or work in compressed air.

However, this surveillance is becoming relevant for more and more businesses as the pandemic continues.

Health surveillance is important for:

  • detecting ill-health effects at an early stage, so employers can introduce better controls to prevent them getting worse
  • providing data to help employers evaluate health risks
  • enabling employees to raise concerns about how work affects their health
  • highlighting lapses in workplace control measures, therefore providing invaluable feedback to the risk assessment 
  • providing an opportunity to reinforce training and education of employees (e.g. on the impact of health effects and the use of protective equipment)

Your risk assessment should be used to identify any need for health surveillance. You should not use health surveillance as a substitute for undertaking a risk assessment or using effective controls.  

Health surveillance can sometimes be used to help identify where more needs to be done to control risks and where early signs of work-related ill health are detected, employers should take action to prevent further harm and protect employees. And remember, this doesn’t just apply to physical health, but mental health too.

HVAC cleaning
We all know that good ventilation is a key component in tackling the spread of coronavirus, so it’s especially important to ensure the air quality in your building is the best it can be, by ensuring your air ducts are clean.

HVAC cleaning is basically the practice of cleaning your duct work and ensuring your air conditioning/air distribution systems are being properly maintained. Badly maintained/dirty ducting can contribute to ‘Sick Building Syndrome‘, which is the name for certain symptoms someone gets while working in a specific building. Possible symptoms include:

  • headaches
  • blocked or runny nose
  • dry, itchy skin
  • dry, sore eyes or throat
  • cough or wheezing
  • rashes
  • tiredness and difficulty concentrating

If your premises have stood empty for a while, it’s highly recommended that HVAC cleaning is carried out before you open for business again, but it would be particularly beneficial for any business as we enter the colder months.

If you’d like to find out more about the above or any of our other services, please call our Compliance Team on 01427 678 660 (option 5) or email compliance@skaltd.co.uk.

Stallard Kane works hard to help improve the wellbeing of its employees, and now we want extend that to the local community too. Which is why we, as a team, are taking on the Stallard Kane Walk to Fork challenge – the aim being to raise as many funds as possible to help local families enjoy Christmas more than they maybe would have done without our efforts, with the added benefit of bringing our (currently) remote team together in a way which should help improve everyone’s mental health.

The challenge will involve us all accruing miles by either walking, running or cycling around the Indochinese Peninsula from Ho Chi Minh City to Mong Cai, covering a distance of 1,231 miles by Friday 18th December. This is a short timescale as we will need the funds well before the Christmas break.

We are asking those of you who can, to donate to our fundraising effort via our GoFundMe page: https://uk.gofundme.com/f/walk-to-fork

All monies raised will be divided equally between three of our local schools who have systems in place to identify the families most in need of help during the Christmas break, and provide them with food parcels.

We know there are so many worthy causes appealing for help at the moment, but we wanted to give back to our local community, seeing as so many of them have been there for us over the past 20 years.

We will be sharing updates on our team’s progress on here, on our social media channels and in our regular email bulletins, so please make sure you subscribe to our email updates/follow us on LinkedIn , Facebook or Twitter . 

Whether you can provide financial, or even just moral, support, we, and the families of Gainsborough, will be extremely grateful – thank you.