What is the Government’s guidance to employers for getting staff back to work?

Many employees, especially those who are office based, have been working from home since the start of lockdown on 20 March 2020, and it has worked well for a number of businesses.

Some employers are starting to call their staff back into the workplace, and others are seriously considering doing so.  The return to work has also been strongly promoted by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week as he suggests that it is time for staff to start going back to work.

It is clear that for some businesses, having their staff working from home has been successful, and has not impacted too much on the needs of clients.  However, for many employees, the experience will have been stressful where they have had to juggle childcare and other personal responsibilities, together with a sense of isolation from colleagues and the wider world.

The Government has issued guidance to employers to help them get their businesses back up and running and for workplaces to operate safely.   The Government has also consulted with around 250 stakeholders in preparing its guidance with input from businesses, trade unions, and industry bodies across the four nations of the United Kingdom.   The aim is to provide employees with the confidence that they need to return to work.

We will now take a look at the 5 key points that the Government’s guidance sets out which it is recommended that Employers implement as soon as it is practical for them to do so:-

Key Point 1 – Work from home, if you can

All reasonable steps should be taken by employers to help staff continue to work from home.  For those who are unable to work from home and whose workplace is not closed, then staff should be encouraged to go to work.  Staff should speak to their employer about when their workplace will open.

Key Point 2 – Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment in consultation with staff and trade unions

This guidance operates within current health and safety, employment and equalities legislation.   If possible, employers should publish the results of their risk assessment on their website and the Government expects all employers with over 50 employees to do so.

Key Point 3 – Maintain 2 metre social distancing, wherever possible.

Employers should re-design workspaces to maintain the 2 metre distance rule between people and stagger start and finish times, create one-way walk-through’s, open more entrances and exits or change seating lay outs in break rooms and kitchen areas.

Key Point 4 – Where people cannot be 2 metres apart, manage transmission risks.

Employers need to consider putting barriers in place in shared spaces, creating workplace shift patterns or fixed teams aimed at minimising the number of people in contact with one another and to ensure that staff are facing away from each other.

Key Point 5 – Reinforcing cleaning processes

Workplaces should be cleaned more frequently, paying close attention to high contact objects like door handles, keyboards, office equipment and surfaces.  Hand washing and hand sanitisers should be available at entry and exit points.   A notice should be on display in the workplace to show employees, and clients and other visitors that they have followed Government guidance.

If you have any concerns about your staff returning to work then contact Steven Eckett, Partner and Head of Employment at Meaby & Co LLP on 020 3053 6506 or  seckett@meaby.co.uk