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COVID-19 - returning to work and the next steps

View profile for Reggie Lloyd
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COVID-19 - returning to work and the next steps

The Government set out revised guidance on 10 May 2020. It said where employees could do so they should work from home but where that was not possible employers are encouraged to get employees back to work in a safe environment.


If employers are considering a return to work for some or all employees it is advisable to:

  • Consult with each employee or employee representatives, including any trade union representatives and/or health and safety officers before plans are finalised
  •  Undertake a risk assessment considering how to curb the potential spread of Covid -19
  • Make the workplace as safe as possible for staff, customers and anyone else who visits.

Understandably, some employees are anxious about safety and returning to the workplace, businesses should be sympathetic to this. Any concerns should be to see if it can be resolved – not only so employees feel safe enough to return but to comply with employer duties.


Looking after health, safety and wellbeing of your staff

Employers have a 'duty of care' to their staff in relation to their health, safety and wellbeing. This obliges employers to do all they reasonably can to support health, safety and wellbeing.

 Steps an employer should consider:

  • Make sure the rules on social distancing are observed in the workplace including the staggering of employees arriving, leaving and congregating together.
  • Consider how to deal with “pinch points” such as entrances, exits, doorways, stairs, lifts, toilets, canteens, coffee stations, sharing work tools/equipment and the setup of workstations.
  • Are extra steps required for vulnerable groups, such as pregnant employees, those aged 70 or over, or those who have a long-term health condition.
  • Hold meetings remotely by telephone or video link.
  • Communicate by telephone, email or other media as much as possible.
  • Avoid travel as much as possible.
  • Managers should be trained to spot symptoms of coronavirus and the process to follow if they suspect someone is showing symptoms of or reports symptoms.
  • Encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly and ensure there are ample places to wash hands with hot water and soap.
  • Provide and encourage the use of hand sanitiser and tissues.
  • Make sure everyone's contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date.
  • Keep everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace.
  • Keep up to date with the latest government advice.
  • Signpost staff to any health and wellbeing support that’s available, for example occupational health or mental health services.
  • Remind employees of their obligations to take care of their own and others health and safety and the need for them to observe the rules.


Employees who are concerned about returning

Some employees might be afraid of returning to work because they're afraid of catching coronavirus, especially those who are at higher risk.

An employer should listen to any concerns staff may have and should take steps to protect everyone. For example, if possible provide car parking where possible so that employees can avoid using public transport.

If an employee does not want to return, consider whether the employee could take the time off as holiday or unpaid leave, but an employer does not have to agree to this.

If the employer has carried out a risk assessment and has implemented a safe system of work in accordance with Government guidelines, if an employee refuses to attend work without a valid reason, it could result in disciplinary action and dismissal.


 These are areas of potential risk and worth seeking advice about if the business needs to force the issue.

There are enough things to worry about at the moment; don’t let that niggle be one of them – get in touch. I can be contacted on 01206 217347 or