Covid-19 has changed the way that many businesses operate. The upheaval of the last few months is testament to that. We have seen some businesses close their doors in March and only open them again recently or are planning to reopen soon. Others continued to trade under very different circumstances. Those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors will have invested in equipment and training to allow them to safely open to the public once again. They now do so with the priority of customer and staff safety at the forefront of operations.
 

Operating safely has long been the responsibility of any business but now they have the added concern of trading safely during a global pandemic to contend with. The Return to Work Safely Protocol is a document published by the government in May 2020 and is a collaborative effort by the Health & Safety Authority, Health Services Executive, Department of Health and Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation. This protocol outlines steps to reduce the risk of the spread of Covid 19 in a workplace and is a guide that all businesses should be following in an effort to operate safely. The Protocol should be used by all workplaces to adapt their workplace procedures and practices to comply fully with the COVID-19 related public health protection measures identified as necessary by the HSE.

It is important for all businesses to be aware that the Protocol is a non-exhaustive document and some sectors will have more specific requirements than others. This may be outlined in further, industry specific documentation, for example those published by Fáilte Ireland for Hotels, Pubs, Coffee Shops, etc, or the HPSC Guidance for Food Service Businesses, both published in June 2020. These are to be read in conjunction with the Return to Work Safely Protocol.

The Health (Preservation and Protection and other emergency measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 which was signed into law in March 2020, puts a responsibility on businesses to ensure that they remain fully compliant with any regulations which are issued during this period. Where an offence under the Act is committed by a company and where such offence was attributable to any wilful neglect of an officer of a company, the offending individuals as well as the company may face prosecution in respect of that offence.

The Health and Safety Authority state on their website that “During inspections, the Authority will take into consideration all matters of fact when deciding the appropriate level of action to take where any contravention of the relevant statutory provisions are observed”. So, it could be the case that in serious breaches of regulations, the business involved, or individuals connected to it, could face criminal prosecution.

A Commercial Legal Protection policy will not only provide initial legal advice and assistance to any policyholder who is uncertain of their responsibilities under the Return to Work Safely Protocol, but the policy will also cover the legal defence costs of any criminal prosecution brought against them as a result of such unintended breaches. An unexpected and unwelcome legal bill need not be a further consequence of such a breach. Ensuring that adequate Legal Expenses Insurance is in place now means that this policy will be there to help if and when such an occurrence arises.

For further information on the cover provided by an ARAG Commercial Legal Protection policy please contact your account manager or go to www.arag.ie

Disclaimer - all information in this article was correct at time of publishing.

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