How to safely return to work post COVID-19

With the UK lockdown restrictions slowly easing to a normality that we’re all used to, the majority of businesses have decided that now is the time to return to the workplace as opposed to continue to work from home or another remote location.

The problem, however, is that the large majority of business premises have been left unattended for a prolonged period of time as the UK was in its lockdown period. This means that it is essential for employers and business owners to ensure that their sites and premises are safe and have the relevant systems in place for returning to work post COVID-19.

Actions you can take to ensure health and safety in the workplace

There are a number of measures you should take to ensure it is safe for employees to return to work both from a physical and mental point of view. By conducting the right risk assessments and installing new policies, employees can be reassured their safety is a priority, as well as protecting the business.

Creating new, clear policies and documentation for those still working from home and those returning to work should be a consideration, especially for those industries involved in construction and manufacturing would benefit from new risk assessments.

For those that have agreed to return to the workplace, whether in an office, or construction site, conducting a COVID-19 risk assessment is essential and there are companies that offer a Coronavirus support service and assessment to ensure that your workplace is safe and has the correct systems in place to ensure the safety of you and your employees.

Ultimately, ensuring that all government rules and guidelines are being followed and that health and safety measures are enforced is the best way to keep everyone safe. It’s also essential to maintain the health and wellbeing of everyone returning to the workplace.

Employee Rights

As an organisation, employers should understand that many staff members may be feeling nervous about returning to work and many may want to continue working from home as long as possible.

Your new policies can outline certain measures and options which ensure the correct criteria have been met.

For example, some criteria’s might include, ensuring employees have received clear communication and arrangements of them working from home and that they have received the correct instructions for setting up their workstation and equipment.

The other side of the coin may relate to PPE, which may be required depending on the working environment, however it should be optional for all types of workers, no matter their place of work, especially if you’re providing close contact services.

The other obvious safety measures should include having access to cleaning stations, hand sanitisers and social distancing measures where possible.

Whilst the rights employees have will differ from sector to sector and even business to business, there are some universal rights that employees have across the majority of industries, regardless of what business you work for.

One focus employee right is the ongoing furlough scheme. The government has already outlined how the furlough scheme will develop in the coming months. This involves two main aspects:

  • Employees can choose to stop the furlough scheme at any point and bring the employee back into full time employment.
  • From August, furloughed staff will be allowed to return to work part time with the employer covering the wage with the government.

There are many more rights and concerns that employees may have regarding returning to work if they are part of a “at risk” group or if they are effected by school closures or travel restrictions. It is the employer’s role to ensure that these concerns are addressed and the rights of the employees are followed and that new health and safety measures are put in place correctly, to ensure everyone can return to work safely.

Peter Watson