Blog

Is it safe to return to the workplace?

returning to work after the pandemic

On 10 May 2020 the Government began to outline its plans to enable certain sectors in England to return to work.

While employees who can operate from home are advised to continue to do so, official guidance on the government’s plans for returning to the workplace continue to emerge.

Given that the timing and nature of any further relaxation of restrictions is uncertain it would be sensible for businesses to consider all the options and have the capability to move quickly from one scenario to another.

Employers need to plan now for what is likely to be a staged return to the workplace over what could be prolonged periods. Their guiding principle should be how organisations take care of their people and safeguard their health and well-being.

Many people will be concerned and anxious about being in workplaces or travelling to workplaces. They will want to know that their organisation is retaining their support for physical and mental health and its current thinking about flexible and remote working. This should be at the heart of any decisions and plans that organisations make.

The CIPD is urging businesses to ensure they can meet three key tests before bringing their people back to the workplace:

  • Is it essential? If people can continue to work from home they must continue to do that for the foreseeable future. If they cannot work from home, is their work deemed essential or could the business continue to use the Government’s Job Retention Scheme for longer, giving them the time needed to put safety measures and clear employee guidance and consultation in place?
  • Is it sufficiently safe? Employers have a duty of care to identify and manage risks to ensure that the workplace is sufficiently safe to return to. Employers should take their time with gradual returns to work to test health and safety measures in practice and ensure they can work with larger numbers before encouraging more of their workforce back.
  • Is it mutually agreed? It’s vital that there is a clear dialogue between employers and their people so concerns, such as commuting by public transport, can be raised and individuals needs and worries taken into account. There will need to be flexibility on both sides to accommodate different working times or schedules as ways of managing some of these issues.