On 11 May 2020 the Government published practical guidance1 for employers on how to keep their workforce safe by implementing safety measures differentiated according to the activities undertaken, the physical spaces occupied by, and the demographic risk profiles associated with, relevant employees. Furthermore, in June 2020 the Government set out a timeline for retail stores to reopen2 which as of 4 July 2020 has been extended to include a set of further easements to other businesses and venues in the hospitality, personal care, accommodation and leisure space.
As the Government implements its roadmap to lifting restrictions, adopting a sector-based economic approach, it should be borne in the mind of employers that their contractual and tortious legal obligations to their employees shall subsist and remain undiminished, notwithstanding any apparent implementation of the guidance and/or compliance with coronavirus emergency legislation. If appropriate measures are not taken, COVID-19 has the potential to expose employees to risk of injury and death which may give rise to claims for damages brought by employees, or their estates, for acts and/or omissions by employers who fail to exercise a reasonable standard of care. This article forecasts some issues likely to arise in the conduct of such claims.