On 10th May 2020 the Government began to outline its plan to enable certain sectors to return to work.
Whilst employees who can operate from home are being advised to continue to do so, official guidance on the government’s plans for returning to the workplace continue to emerge, and I urge you to ensure you keep up to date with the governments guidance.
Communication is key, and you should be consulting with your staff about returning to work. If you have trade union, employee and health and safety representatives then you need to be including them.
If you do have trade union or employee representatives, please check any agreements you have in place with them to see if you should be formally consulting.
Whilst employees and workers should be ready to return to work at short notice, you should be flexible where possible.
- Making the workplace safe
As an employer you must make the workplace as safe as possible for employees, contractors, customers and everyone who needs to visits. Wherever possible encourage employees to work from home and ensure you follow the government guidelines on working safely during coronavirus on GOV.UK
Risk assessments should be carried out to identify what might cause harm, and reasonable steps taken to prevent them from happening. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have a great managing risks and risk assessment at work section on their website, along with working safely during coronavirus from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) at find coronavirus advise on the HSE website
- Discuss plans with your employees
It is important to make sure you talk to your employees as soon as possible with regards to returning to work, and your conversations should include:
- when employees might return to the workplace
- how they will travel to and from work
- how health and safety is being reviewed, managed and the latest risk assessment findings and actions
- any planned adjustments to be made to the workplace, e.g. phased return to work, staggering start and finish times, floor markings to help people keep 2 metres apart
- working from home arrangements
It is so important not to forget any changes that might affect an employee’s employment contract needs to be consulted with them.
- If someone does not want to return
You may find some people are anxious about safety and going back to the workplace, and it is important to encourage them to talk to you about any concerns and try to resolve them together.
Some people may feel they do not want to return to work or they may be unable to return yet, for example, they may be:
- worried about catching coronavirus
- they may be at high risk of getting a severe illness if they catch coronavirus
- caring for children
- living with someone who is shielding
As an employer you need to listen to any concerns your staff may have and take steps to ensure you protect everyone, this may be
- offering extra car parking so employees do not have to use public transport
- keeping someone on furlough if they are temporarily unable to work
- temporarily changing hours of work to avoid peak travel time
If after reviewing any reasonable adjustments the employee still does not want to return to work, you may want to consider letting them book annual leave or unpaid leave.
If someone is refusing to return to work without a valid reason, this could result in disciplinary action and your disciplinary policy and procedure needs to be followed.
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