Many businesses closed during the recent Covid pandemic, sending all workers home to work from home, furloughing staff or simply pausing production or their service.
Some are still closed but thinking about re-opening soon. This was both a response to Government restrictions and a safe human response to a very difficult situation, but what is perhaps even more difficult is the transition period we are currently now in.
You may be questioning whether it is safe for you to return to work. Provided you have not been advised to continue shielding until August, you may now be considering whether your employer has done all they should to ensure a safe return for you.
The first thing your employer should do is draft a risk assessment to ensure they are effectively managing the risks of coronavirus – by doing this they can consider what they can continue to do safely, how to protect you and other staff and what new measures to introduce.
You can ask to see the risk assessment if you would prefer written documentation. Businesses with more than 50 employees are required to publish the document, however, any business with fewer than five employees do not have to physically write anything down, although they could if they wanted to and they should at least have considered the risks.
Your employer could consider any or all of the below and should have considered them during the Risk Assessment phase:
- What to do if someone shows symptoms of Corona Virus
- How employees travel to work to minimise shared transport
- Stagger arrival/departure times and shifts to minimise people within entry/exit points
- Provide washing facilities for hands to be washed upon getting into and leaving work
- Minimising ‘touch points’ such as door handles, keypads, entry systems, printers and copiers
- Provide cleaning products for before/after use
- How visitors or deliveries will be received
- Keep work areas 2 metres apart
- Allocate one person to each work area (if this is not possible, keep the number of people as low as possible)
- Limit access to shared facilities such as break rooms, toilets, kitchens and canteens
- Consider providing packaged meals to avoid opening canteens
- Stagger break times so canteens or rest areas are not all used at once
- Use floor tape/paint to mark work areas
- Provide signage to remind people to keep a 2 metre distances
- Use screens to create a physical barrier between people
- Have people working side-by-side or back to back instead of face-to-face
- Limit the movement of staff rotating between jobs/equipment, using lifts/work vehicles and in high-traffic areas
- Avoid face-to-face meetings or limit the number of attendees and duration
If you have any concerns about prospective changes, or even the lack of, talk to your Line Manager or somebody more Senior.
This will hopefully assist in putting your mind at rest and give you more comfort in respect of your return to work.
Fundamentally, the guidance from the Government in England is still to work from home where you can. This eradicates any risks associated with returning to your office or workplace, but can cause difficulties (loneliness or complications in managing work-life balance) so both options should be weighed up against each other – if you are physically able to work from home but mentally would prefer to start working from the business premises again, this is a conversation you should have.
If you are an individual who has been advised to shield, your employer has a legal duty to protect you from harm and should provide you with the ability to work from home until 01 August 2020.
If you want to consider the HSE guidance prior to returning to work, please access the below link: