Current Government guidance provides practical advice to employers on how to protect their workforce and customers whilst continuing to operate in the event that they cannot work from home.
The guidance recommends that where social distancing cannot be implemented into an activity, the business should consider whether the activity needs to continue for the business to operate. The sector-specific guidance (see below) provides examples of how to mitigate the risk in this event.
The guidance recommends additional requirements for customer-facing roles, including:
Government guidance recommends that employers stagger on-premises hours to reduce public transport use during peak periods. Staff who are unwell with the symptoms of Covid-19 should not travel to or from the workplace.
The Government guidance recommends cohorting which means to keep teams of workers together so, where contact is unavoidable, this happens between the same individuals. The Government guidance also recommends to:
The Government has also published sector-specific guidance to aid employers in implementing these measures within a range of industries including logistics, manufacturing, construction, and retail.
Robust risk assessments will prove an essential tool for employers developing their return to work plan and aid in ensuring compliance with changing Government guidance.
Amongst other considerations, employers should assess:
Working conditions and workplace/desk proximity and the ability to implement changing guidance from national and international public health and occupational health.
Composition of the workforce. Assess those that are high-risk or live with people who are deemed high-risk and shielding and may be unable to return to the workplace immediately.
Social distancing measures and the ability to implement the restrictions within the workplace.
Commuting. The ability of the workforce to commute safely to and from work, including avoiding travel during rush hour. Employers should consider which members of their workforce visit off-site premises as part of their duties and whether alternative arrangements can be implemented such as video conferencing.
Work from home. The capacity to continue working from home and a long-term shift to de-centralised working.
PPE. The additional need for PPE or other protective equipment. Employers investing in PPE will also need to factor in training on how to use such equipment into their return to work plan.
Mental Health. The risk to employees’ mental health on returning to work. Many people will have experienced mental health challenges as a result of the pandemic. Adopting a holistic approach to assessing the impact of returning to work on employees’ physical and mental health will prove essential when managing the stress and anxiety returning to the workplace may present.
The current period of lockdown is scheduled to end 7 May, and clearer guidance from the Government on how businesses can return to the workplace is due to be released this week (week commencing 4.5.2020). It is recommended that employers keep checking to ensure that they are following the most up to date guidance. If in doubt, please take legal advice.