With businesses working to reopen, even if just partially, employers must ensure that they carefully plan for return to the workplace.
At the time of writing, government guidance states that individuals should continue to work from home "if you can". This will at least be the case until the lockdown restricts ease further in mid-May or June 2021.
This is a good time for employers to consider agile and flexible working practices going forward. Many firms have already stated that post lockdown, staff will choose how and where they want to work. Of course, this is very much dependant on the nature of the role, and so not every employer can provide this flexibility.
Employers have a duty of care to staff and need to provide a safe work environment, ensuring that there is a proper Covid-19 health and safety assessment carried out. This not only makes staff feel comfortable in returning to work but mitigates any possible claims and reputational risk to the business.
It is important for employers to regularly communicate with staff as to the measures being taken to protect their health, safety and wellbeing. It is important to ensure that staff are provided with clear rules and procedures they should follow.
Testing for COVID-19 for staff attending the workplace will form a key part of facilitating a safe return to the workplace for larger numbers of employees and consideration should be given to this and on what basis it is required (i.e. on a voluntary basis, as there is no law that say says staff must be tested).
Even if an employer does decide that going forward it will be mostly remote working, it is also important to consider those staff that would prefer to coming into the workplace, for example due to mental health. It is beneficial to consider individual needs of staff where possible.
Employers should also discuss their return to work plans for clinically extremely vulnerable staff. Employers will need to put extra measures in place to keep clinically extremely vulnerable employees safe at work, which may include offering a safer alternative role or adjusted working patterns.
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.