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With plans to gradually relax lockdown rules revealed on Sunday, businesses in industries where working from home is not feasible are looking to get back to the grindstone this week.

 

Boris Johnson has said that anyone who cannot work from home should now go to work as the message of ‘stay home’ changes to ‘stay alert’.

 

We are expecting further guidelines and detail to emerge this week to clarify statements made in Boris’s announcement. In the meantime, businesses that are set to return to work or re-open their doors in the coming days or weeks should start to plan how they will keep their employees safe and workplace ‘COVID secure’.

 

Step One: Profile Your Workforce

 

Your first job as an employer is to look at your employees and assess what changes you need to make to your current working arrangements. You need to identify:

  • Those employees who will be returning to the workplace
  • Those employees who are able to work from home or continue to work from home
  • Those employees on furlough who you may need to bring back into actively working
  • Those employees who are in the extremely vulnerable group / shielding
  • Employees who need to remain furloughed due to being unable to work from home and if they are agreeable to an extension
  • Employees who you need to consider for possible redundancies due to long-term business issues
   

Step Two: Covid-19 Proof Your Workplace

 

Employers who have staff in their office or workplace should ensure that wherever possible that employees are following HSE and Public Health England Guidelines on social distancing and hygiene.

 
  • Consider if you can accommodate all your employees to work within 2 metres of each other or if you need to operate shift working or allow some staff to work from home
  • Consider if you need to move desks or workstations around to allow for a 2-metre distance
  • Give regular reminders to employees and visitors about hand-washing
  • Provide hand washing facilities, hand sanitiser, antibacterial wipes and any protective equipment needed
  • Encourage the use of digital and remote transfers where possible rather than paper, such as using email, e-forms, scanning facilities and electronic payments
  • Use floor markings to mark 2-metre distancing, particularly in crowded areas such as waiting areas, receptions or canteens. Put up signs for staff, customers or visitors to inform them of the rules around social distancing
  • Minimise face-to-face meetings by continuing to use video or telephone conferences. Keep essential face-to-face meetings short and distanced
  • Avoid staff working facing each other where possible
  • Implement a one way system in buildings to avoid employees having to pass in the corridors
  • Encourage staff to bring food and drink in with them from home to avoid time being spent in communal areas, such as the kitchen or canteen
  • Regulate entry so that your workplace doesn’t become over-crowded by operating a 1 in 1 out system or not allowing large numbers of people into buildings at one time
  • Ensure staff and visitors are aware of the symptoms and are not coming into the workplace if they have any of the known symptoms or are in a period of quarantine
  • Use plexiglass barriers and ensure that frequently touched areas (such as counters, taps, printers and kettles) are cleaned with disinfectant throughout the day
 

Step Three: Communication

 

Employers must ensure that they have communicated any or all changes to working procedures and policies with their staff.

 

The best way to ensure all employees are clear is to provide a concise ‘back to work’ policy that clearly outlines all the regulations and procedures that are to be adhered to. This can include home working policies for those who will continue to work remotely. This should be emailed to all staff and you can ask your employees to respond to acknowledge receipt and understanding. You can also use staff intranets and notice boards if you use them.

 

Display useful information for staff on hand washing, social distancing, and any other Public Health England guidelines.

 

Assistance for your Workplace

 

Most importantly you must ensure that your workforce are kept safe and healthy. Remember to be mindful that staff may be returning to work feeling overwhelmed, emotional or may be struggling with their mental health. Be sure to support your employees needs and be prepared to make reasonable adjustments where required.

 

Boris Johnson has discouraged the use of public transport, so it is important to realise that some staff may have issues getting to work at this point in time and show flexibility where possible.

 

For those returning to work, ensure that you have everything in place, clear instructions and notice is provided to any returning employees to ensure as far as possible that their (and others) health and safety is protected.

 

Our expert Employment Lawyers are keeping an ear to the ground on any updates to working guidelines from the government. If you need clarification or would like assistance with updating your staff policies, contracts or redundancy processes then please get in touch.

 

We are working safely to continue to provide legal assistance to our clients. You can call our office on 01256 844888, email enquiries@lambbrooks.com or speak to our online chat assistant via our website.

   

Other articles you may be interested in reading:

Leading a Team During a Crisis

Furlough Pay Explained

Home Working Procedures During Coronavirus

 

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.   Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.