A LAWYER has urged firms to put safety first by producing tailored plans to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Kate Brooks, partner and head of employment and HR at Ellis Jones Solicitors in Bournemouth, said guidance for employers was changing almost daily.

The government has issued and then refined a list of businesses which must close during the crisis, as well as telling everyone to work from home if possible.

Kate Brooks said: “Many businesses may feel caught in a whirlwind right now.

“Most are having to implement radical changes to working patterns and their workforce while navigating sometimes complex employment law, and contracts.

“At the same time, guidance and support from the government and Public Health England is being updated on a near daily basis.

“One overarching principle to bear in mind is that an employer has a duty to keep all employees safe, and an employee should take responsibility to ensure they are not putting others at risk, and following government guidance.

“There are various different scenarios to consider depending on the circumstances.

“This may include reviewing contracts, consulting with staff, reduced hours, lay-off, short time working, homeworking, worker illness, self-isolation, sick pay, unpaid leave, forced or agreed holiday, redundancy and workplace closure.”

The firm has been fielding enquiries from both businesses and individual workers.

Many have been confused about the position for manufacturers and building firms, which have not been ordered to close, whether or not their work is considered essential.

The situation in the building industry became further muddied when London mayor Sadiq Khan and Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon both said construction workers should not travel to work, but the government said they could be required to attend.

“We recommend all employers come up with a tailored plan which is likely to involve taking legal advice or HR guidance to ensure they are prepared as best they can be,” Ms Brooks added.