Staff wellbeing and support – employers’ duty of care
Employers have a moral and statutory duty of care to protect employee’s health and safety and provide a safe environment to work. NHS organisations need to be proactive in protecting employees and supporting them to feel safe and secure in their employment. It is critical that employers support staff by listening to concerns, responding appropriately and reinforcing the need to follow the latest PHE guidance.
Employers also have a responsibility for ensuring staff do not work excessive hours and that they get sufficient rest – see information on the Working Time Regulations in the staff pay and terms and conditions of service section of this resource.
Employers have the same duty of care to their staff during a pandemic as in other circumstances, and should take steps to safeguard the health and safety of their staff. NHS organisations must consult with their health and safety leads, public health colleagues, occupational health colleagues and staff unions to develop a local plan to support the workforce. Trade union safety representatives should also be involved and consulted on, in line with the statutory duty to consult them on matters relating to the health and safety of members they represent. Employers may want to encourage staff to use their reps as a route for flagging up concerns. PHE’s infection prevention and control guidance principles should be applied and reflected in local plans.
In addition to following key PHE guidance, employers will need to be mindful of staff with disabilities and review support and adjustments as needed. It is important for employers to ensure employees have access to basic wellbeing provisions, to enable staff to maintain their own wellbeing. They should ensure wellbeing practices are reviewed and established to enable staff to:
- frequently access hand washing facilities and have adequate supplies of hand sanitisers and hand cream, to prevent dermatitis
- keep hydrated, this is especially important for staff wearing PPE for long periods of time
- have 24-hour access to food
- have regular breaks to reduce the onset of fatigue and associated risks – additional arrangements may need to be considered where staff are working longer shifts and/or additional hours. This could involve the repurposing of offices into rest spaces. Please refer to the Health, Safety and Wellbeing Partnership Group’s (HSWPG) guidance on safe shift working for further information, including information on provisions of ‘power naps’ and the safety of staff driving home after long shifts
- know where to go to access local support, for example occupational health contacts, employee assistance provider (EAP) information and psychological support provisions for accessing counselling or other provisions
- raise concerns and seek reassurance and to explore and agree solutions with their line manager where required
- have an effective safety induction into any new areas that staff are being re-deployed, to ensure they are familiar with emergency procedures, reporting procedures and any equipment they may be asked to us
- review of security arrangements to protect staff from the potential of increased violence and abuse, including community staff who may be targeted if they are carrying sanitiser and PPE.