Leading law firm Aaron & Partners has put together a list of five top tips aimed at business owners, managers and HR professionals to provide advice on returning to the workplace as the UK’s lockdown restrictions begin to ease.
Claire Brook, a Legal 500 listed Employment Law Partner at Aaron & Partners, has created a guide to help businesses navigate the transition back to the workplace with many of the businesses they work with feeling concerned and confused about the process.
Claire said: “Whilst it has been made clear by Michael Gove that the UK will not be going “back to the old normal” and that the road ahead will be a slow and phased approach with close impact monitoring, we know that employers and HR teams are now planning for a return to work.
“With some businesses now allowed to return to their workplace, such as construction workers or manufacturers, it has been widely reported that employers and employees are concerned and need to feel confident that the appropriate measures have been put in place to manage risk and ensure safety.
“Careful planning and manager training is important, in addition to getting the messaging correct at this crucial time. To offer some help and guidance, we’ve produced a list of five top tips to help business owners, HR professionals and managers plan their return to the workplace.”
1. Conduct a thorough risk assessment
As an employer you have a legal responsibility to protect the health and safety of employees and others, and therefore you should complete a COVID-19 risk assessment in order to establish the potential risks posed by the virus. It will be essential to consider the following:
Travel to work – some employers organise this and will need to consider the appropriate measures to comply with government guidance
Workspace – including sanitisation requirements, social distancing or mitigation measures (such as flexible working to reduce “crowding” and avoiding shared use of machines/stationary)
Mental and physical health and safety at work
2. Provide training for all managers and staff
To ensure a safe return to work, it is vital that employers provide relevant training for managers and staff to ensure that each individual within their business understands what is required in order to operate safely.
Before a return to work, refresher training should be provided to employees, contractors or visitors to the workplace. This training should as minimum include the latest advice and guidance from the government and updates to your policies and procedures.
3. Communicate with employees
With government guidance changing at a rapid pace, it is crucial that employees fully understand any new workplace rules and any additional obligations expected from them. Employers should be clearly communicating any new health and safety rules, the timescale for introducing the changes , requirements and access to PPE, how to report any concerns and the potential consequences for failing to comply. .
To ensure workers have no symptoms of COVID-19, a pre-return form should be completed at least three days before the planned return to work.
As well as considering physical safety, it’s important for organisations to provide employees with support for their wellbeing and mental health. Every individual will have had a different experience. Communication will be key in understanding and addressing any issues workers may be experiencing.
4. Review and update current policies and procedures
Employers will need to review and, where necessary, update existing policies and documents including sickness absence policies, flexible working policies and travel policies, as well as data protection compliance documents.
Certain companies are appointing social distancing marshals to ensure that rules are being followed.
If you are proposing to introduce any monitoring for compliance you will need to explain this and update your monitoring policies accordingly.
5. Review regularly
As the situation is continuing to evolve, it should be noted that employers and workers will need to recognise that flexibility will be required and policies will need to be continuously reviewed and updated in line with changing government guidance.
With new updates being announced daily, we would always recommend seeking the advice of a qualified professional to understand the current landscape and how the new legislation applies to you or your business.