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Your questions answered

17 March 2022

Each issue, British Safety Council will be using this page to answer YOUR questions. Please send any problems, issues or general enquiries about health, safety and wellbeing to policy@britsafe.org and their experts will respond in future issues.

Q: As a retailer, should I encourage customers (and my staff) to still wear face coverings, following the change to Covid restrictions?

British Safety Council’s view is generally yes, you should. All the data show Covid still poses a risk to human health and that face coverings are a good way of reducing the risk of spreading any respiratory infection. Let’s be clear, typical face masks are not the same as personal protective equipment, but they show you are thinking of others, and wearing one may just save someone with a complex medical condition from becoming ill.

Q: I have found working from home to be beneficial to my mental health during the pandemic, can my employer make me go back to the office now or can I refuse?

This will be a question debated for some time. Before the pandemic an employee had the right to ask to work from home, but the decision had to consider the needs of the business as well as the employee. This requirement, though still in place, could be argued to be irrelevant if the role has been conducted effectively for 18 months from home. Employers should be prepared to have open and collaborative conversations on this subject. An employee may find working from home is beneficial to their mental health but if colleagues suffer because that person isn’t on hand to help when others are back in the office, whose mental health gets priority?  

Q: What training should I do to become a health and safety adviser?

The prescribed route will be the NEBOSH General Certificate. This provides the adviser with the framework to be effective in their role. However, it is just a framework and should be built on, especially with additional training in skills like communication and persuasion. Simply knowing what the law says and the implications of not taking the appropriate steps is not enough. The role of a Health and Safety Adviser is not to just stop an accident or incident occurring it’s to work with their employer to make the business succeed – safely.

Q. What’s the best way of capturing and analysing the data to inform good decisions around wellbeing? 

There is no short answer to this, but to start with, consider which factors in your business can influence or relate to worker wellbeing. This might be the nature of the work your business entails, right through to how you record sickness absence, what support services are in place, i.e. exit interview outputs, staff surveys, staff representative groups and so on. 

Then, look at what data you currently have, or can access, relating to each of these areas. How robust is it currently? What does this information tell you? Importantly, what doesn’t it tell you, so you can look at filling any gaps? For example, how robust is your current absence policy and reporting? 

If managers are not currently following the policy, try to explore why, and what could be done to optimise it. For example, run some focus group discussions with managers. Think about what you currently know about worker wellbeing and capture what you need to. 

Q. Our organisation plans to continue with hybrid working but we’ll have to “hot desk” having given up some of our office space. Any advice on supporting colleagues?

This is something many organisations are facing, having re-organised their offices to maintain social distancing and a booking system to ensure that numbers are managed. It’s good to encourage a discussion among staff and even conduct a consultation before people start back in the office. Just by talking about it, a solution often arises and the process can be made as a collaborative as possible. People will feel more supported if they have already been engaged and will understand that they also have a role in helping to support each other.

Q. Are employees legally required to inform their employers when they are diagnosed with diabetes?

In most jobs, you are not obliged by law to tell your employer you have diabetes. The Equality Act makes it against the law for any employer to ask you about your health before offering you a job. However, your employer has a duty of care to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, your health and safety at work. You also have a duty to look after your own health and safety, as well as others around you. So, it’s generally a good idea to be open and talk about your diabetes from the start.

Don’t forget to submit YOUR questions to policy@britsafe.org