Frequently asked questions
Employers are legally obliged to keep their staff safe at work, and covid-19 is another risk that must be assessed along with outlining the required steps to limit this risk - to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees in the workplace.
A risk assessment is crucial to highlight any additional policies that need to be created - in this case, particularly surrounding ventilation requirements and workplace hygiene.
You should involve members of your management team and other employees in this process. You will be evaluating what safeguarding measures may need to be implemented to prevent harm to your employees and or visitors to the premises. You can see more on HSE’s guidance for risk assessment during the coronavirus (COVID-19) here.
You can also access iHASCO’s free risk assessment tool here.
You must complete a return to work risk assessment (as above), which will help highlight what needs to be done to ensure a smooth return to the workplace. It will differ depending on many factors including your industry, size of premises, whether employers want to continue to let staff work from home.
In order to get your workplace up and running, it may be that you consider a staggered return, agreeing who should return and when. This will allow for procedures to be tweaked and amended, as it is extremely difficult to take into account every eventuality, while social distancing is no longer required, it is something that some workplaces feel like they want to continue to implement. Ensuring managers and supervisors are clear on the new policies and procedures is vital and it will help establish new practices as more of the workforce return. Check out our ‘Returning to work and preparing for the future’ blog for more information on how you can plan a safe and gradual return to the workplace.
After agreeing and implementing practical steps these need to be communicated to your workforce. This is a key part of the return to work process, as if you can establish trust with your employees it will give them the confidence to return. You must also communicate any changes to business operations or their job role as a result of Covid-19 before their return. As employees return after an extended time away from work employers will also need to consider bringing employees back up to speed with Health & Safety and other areas of compliance through refresher training.
The government have provided guidance for employers to make workplaces ‘Covid-Secure’ which can be accessed here. Advice is for specific industry sectors including social distancing measures that could be put in place to protect employees and customers from Covid-19 and general infection prevention and control methods. Workplaces can download a certificate to display in the workplace to confirm they have followed government guidance on managing the risk of Covid-19.
As of the 19th of July, legal restrictions have been lifted and any business can open as they are no longer being told to work from home.
Gov.uk report that:
“From Step 4, social distancing guidance will no longer apply. This means that you do not need to implement social distancing in your business, workplace or venue, and customers and workers do not need to keep apart from people they don’t live with.
The government is no longer instructing people to work from home if they can, so employers can start to plan a return to workplaces. During this period of high prevalence, the government expects and recommends a gradual return over the summer. You should discuss the timing and phasing of a return with your workers.”
There aren’t many things that can shut down the majority of a country's workplaces and stop people from coming together. Not many people expect that they will be a part of a global pandemic, but, as we’ve all recently discovered, it can and does happen, and the effects are far reaching and quite dramatic.
While, on the whole, the chances of a global pandemic are fairly slim, all organisations should try their best to be prepared, just in case. COVID-19, if nothing else, has certainly highlighted the need for an action plan within any organisation.
Due to the nature of your work, you might be affected by a pandemic very differently to other industries. For example, those working in hospitality or retail are simply not able to work whereas healthcare workers will experience a vast increase in their workload. As an employer, you have a responsibility to know what the next steps are if a national or global pandemic is declared.
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We've partnered with Citation to look at work processes and future considerations for returning your furloughed employees.
We have created training plans for employee training as they start to return to work during and after COVID-19.