Returning to work: what employers should know

The Government announced on the 10th May that employees which cannot work home should be encouraged to return to work. Consequently, a new set of guidelines have been issued to help employers ensure the safety of the workplace. 

This blog will cover what you, as an employer, need to do to prepare for the return of your employees in the workplace and how your responsibilities have changed.

 

Before re-opening your workplace, you should prepare Coronavirus-related safety measures and conduct a new risk assessment. 

Coronavirus-related safety measures

Tell your employees about any safety measures put in place before they return. These should include:

  • updating your health and safety policy for those returning to work
  • deep cleaning of the work site
  • reviewing hygiene and cleaning arrangements 
  • assessing the ventilation and air conditioning systems
  • implementing social distancing measures

The new risk assessment 

A new risk assessment should be carried out assessing the risk of an employee contracting Coronavirus. You should take all reasonable steps to reduce that risk. Specific consideration must be given to any vulnerable employees (eg pregnant individuals, elderly or anyone with underlying health conditions).

In mitigating the risk of infection, you should:

  • recall only those with roles that are critical for business and operational continuity and whose work can’t be done remotely
  • increase the frequency of office cleaning 
  • encourage employees to wash their hands frequently
  • change employee seating arrangements to back-to-back or side-to-side rather than face-to-face
  • group workers into fixed teams to reduce the number of people each individual has contact with
  • inform employees who choose to wear face masks how to maximise its functionality (eg washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before putting it on and after removing it)
  • keep any work-related travel and visits from non-employees minimal, opting for remote working tools instead

The results of your risk assessment must be shared with your employees and a notice of compliance should also be displayed at the workplace.

Failure to ensure workplace safety can result in disciplinary actions from local authorities or the Health and Safety Executive

For more information on what the Government’s new guidelines mean for you as an employer, read Employee health and safety in the workplace during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis

Final thoughts

As we attempt to resume some form of normality through this pandemic, we must remain cautious and adjust to the new norm. As such, it’s vital for employers to follow the Government’s guidance to guarantee employees’ safety to help prevent a second wave. 

For more information or resources for businesses during this pandemic check out our other Coronavirus related resources.

Chloe Lai

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