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Health and safety

Published on 13 January 2021

In this chapter of our Annual Insurance Review 2021, we look at the main developments in 2020 and expected issues in 2021 for health and safety.

Key developments in 2020

On 28 September 2020 England saw the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulation 2020 come into force. This Regulation requires people to self-isolate in certain circumstances, such as if they test positive for Covid-19, or if they have had close contact with somebody who has tested positive. The period of isolation is currently 10 days, should an individual test positive, or 14 days, should an individual come into close contact with somebody who has tested positive. 

It is important that all employers understand the implications of this Regulation as it also places new legal obligations on employers of workers required to self-isolate as well as the workers themselves. Employers of self-isolating workers must not knowingly allow a self-isolating worker to attend any place, other than the place in which the employee is isolating, during the isolation period. Equally, an employee must notify their employer of any requirement to self-isolate as soon as reasonably practicable. Breach of this Regulation is a criminal offence and may lead to a fine ranging from £1,000 (for a first offence) to £10,000 (for repeated breaches) and these fines can be imposed on both the employee and the employer.  

The impact of this Regulation is significant.  Simply allowing an employee to enter their place of work when they are obligated to self isolate may constitute a criminal act warranting a significant fine. 

This Regulation only applies in circumstances where an employer is aware of the requirement for their employee to self-isolate. An employer will also not be in breach of the Regulation if the self-isolating employee attends a place other than their self-isolation premises for a permitted reason, such as seeking urgent medical assistance. 

Although a large number of employers are likely to recommend that their employees work from home for some time to come, this Regulation is likely to continue to be in force for a considerable amount of time and so it is extremely important that employers understand how best to comply, particularly once people begin to return to the office. Employers are advised to implement procedures to ensure that the self-isolation requirements dictated by this Regulation are followed promptly and accurately, once they have knowledge of an employee's requirement to self-isolate. 

What to look out for in 2021 

New food labelling and allergen regulations will be introduced in England on 1 October 2021 under new legislation called 'Natasha's Law' following the tragic death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse in 2016. Under the new law, suppliers must label products which are prepared and packaged on-site with a full ingredient list. 

The current Regulation governing the legislative framework in respect of food allergen information requires pre-packed food to provide mandatory information, including details of 14 prescribed allergens. The Regulation governing food pre-packed for direct sale (PPDS) allows providers of PPDS food to provide allergen information by any means chosen by the supplier, including orally. 

Following a decision in a January 2019 consultation, the legislative change to allergen labelling requirements for PPDS food will be implemented by the 2019 Food Information (Amendment) (England) Regulations. The amended Regulations will come into force on 1 October 2021. The new Regulations require the labels of PPDS food sold in England to clearly display the following information: 

i. The name of the food; 
ii. A full ingredient list; with 
iii. Allergenic ingredients emphasised. 

It is vital that businesses supplying PPDS foods, and food products more generally, consider the products they are offering to the public and how they can ensure that details of all ingredients in those products are immediately available to a customer. Training staff and ensuring that they are aware of the allergens contained in food products is also important. Investment in technology which may make it easier for customers to obtain immediate allergen information, such as barcode scanning equipment, may also provide businesses with extra confidence that their customers are provided every opportunity to obtain details of all ingredients contained within their food and drink products and that they are complying with the new legislation. 

Authored by Mamata Dutta.

Download our full Annual Insurance Review 2021 for more insights.