By Jonathan Clarke
Despite the major disruption to daily living and the emergency legislation that has been rushed into effect in response to the outbreak of coronavirus (SARS CoV 2) and the resulting disease (Covid 19), the duty of employers to ensure the health and safety of their employees has remained undiminished. It is at times like these, when the work of many health care workers and others who provide essential services involves exposure to a greatly increased risk of serious injury or death, that the protection of such employees becomes all the more important. The admiration and gratitude of the nation is little consolation if the entitlement to basic health and safety measures is reduced on the ground of force majeure. Tales of haphazard supply of inadequate and insufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline staff and the delay in implementing testing (health surveillance) to help identify individuals who pose or face a greater health risk than others and the disproportionate incidence of the disease among such employees mean that, while a variety of coronavirus related claims spring to mind, it is surely only a matter of time before claims for damages are made against employers by employees, or their dependents, who have been infected by the virus as a result of exposure to it at work or by employees who have been injured as a result of their employer’s conduct in response to the pandemic (e.g. homeworking in an unsuitable workspace with unsuitable equipment or manual handling when setting up the workspace, all without the benefit of any risk assessment). The following summarises some of the issues that such coronavirus related litigation might involve.
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