Yesterday’s announcement from the Prime Minister saw a U-turn away from the government’s previous message of ‘getting office workers back into the workplace’ by announcing that those who can work from home, should return to doing so.
For some workplaces, the decision had already been made that employees would continue to work remotely with no fixed plans to return to the office until 2021. But for other businesses who have been through the process of welcoming back their staff, made the necessary Covid-safe adjustments and now face sending their employees home once again – it is another logistical headache.
The plus side is that workplaces have been through this before, are hopefully more prepared and can now face the challenge with some lessons learnt from the Spring lockdown.
“We are once again asking office workers who can work from home to do so. Anyone who cannot work from home should continue to go to work in a Covid-secure workplace.”
The guidance leaves room for interpretation and businesses will need to weigh up several factors to determine what the best approach is for their both their business and their employee’s needs.
All businesses are different, however some areas to consider when deciding how you can adapt include:
As we clearly see cases and infection rates rising, employers must be doing all they can to protect their workforce and their business.
HR teams or managing directors should be checking their office policies and guidelines and making sure they are regularly reviewed and amended in line with the latest government guidance. Your Covid-19 risk assessment should be reviewed regularly and any changes to your policies should be communicated clearly.
This includes the provision of PPE, hand washing facilities and social distancing measures.
All employers have a duty to look after the welfare of employees under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and to assess and manage risk to their staff under Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. This includes assessing and minimising the risk of stress-related illness at work.
Boris even highlighted the importance of mental health and wellbeing for staff in his speech. Whether they are working alone from home or continuing to work in the workplace, it is prevalent that managers and supervisors are taking steps to ensure their staff are supported in this respect.
Employers should also ensure that they are not discriminating against employees when making decisions about working patterns or flexible working and ensure that reasonable adjustments are being considered if necessary.
As many companies across the UK scramble to reverse their ‘back to the office’ plans and make yet more changes to their working procedures, it is imperative to get the right legal advice to avoid making damaging mistakes.
If you are unsure on the procedures you should be following, have HR or employment law questions or would like to outsource the re-writing of your contracts and handbooks, please get in touch with our knowledgeable Employment Law Team.0
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