As lockdown restrictions ease and with vaccine rollouts well underway, even the most cautious of employers and employees may now have one eye on an eventual return to the workplace.
With the risk of COVID-19 likely lingering for a while to come, the onus is on employers to mitigate the risks and make their workplaces as safe as possible. In this article we highlight some of the measures that employers should be putting in place before welcoming employees back to their premises.
Key points for employers to consider include:
- Prepare a specific COVID-19 risk assessment and share this with staff.
- Ensure regular cleaning of the workplace, especially contact surfaces, and ask employees and customers to wash their hands or use sanitiser regularly.
- Ask customers and staff to wear face coverings, especially in areas where they may encounter people they do not normally meet.
- Take steps to encourage social distancing, for example by putting up signs or floor markings.
- Consider ventilation: specific guidance has been issued on this point by the Health and Safety Executive.
- Take part in NHS Test and Trace to most effectively track possible coronavirus cases.
- Turn away staff or customers with COVID-19 symptoms.
- Update your workplace policies and procedures.
- Consider the impact of COVID-19 measures on people’s mental health.
Measures for employers to consider
Employers should ensure that they have taken adequate steps to minimise health risks in the workplace before employees are set to return.
The measures that employers should consider will vary depending on the industry and particular workplace in question. Examples could include changing work times or staggering shift patterns, putting in place social distancing measures, reducing contact with other staff, or limiting work-related travel.
Consideration should also be given for the need for PPE. If a risk assessment concludes that PPE is necessary, this should be provided free of charge by the employer.
Communication is key
Notwithstanding all of this, you cannot guarantee that a workplace is completely safe from COVID-19, and employees may be wary about returning. As such, when planning a return to the workplace, the most important step to take is to engage in dialogue with your employees about the concerns that they may have and the measures that you are taking in response. This will help you comply with your consultation duties under health and safety legislation, but also is basic good practice in understanding and addressing employee concerns.
If you are in need of some support, be it training, reviews of your employment policies, changes to your employment contracts or help with navigating a difficult situation with an employee then please contact us on at firstname.lastname@example.org.