chester

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Cheshire CH1 1HG
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Shrewsbury 01743 443043

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Slide e

Airport City, Manchester 0161 537 3324

Offices 204 and 205
Manchester Business Park
3000 Aviator Way
Manchester M22 5TG

30th July, 2021

Returning to the work place after lockdown

Returning to the work place after lockdown e

Following the government’s decision to move England out of lockdown, there is no longer a requirement to work from home where possible.

Employers can therefore plan for a return to work, although there is a recommendation by the government that this should be done gradually over the coming months. Some businesses have already started to gradually return staff to the workplace, but the following points are important considerations employers should be mindful of if bringing staff back for the first time or considering returning to a greater presence in the workplace.

Risk assessments

Since the removal of some of the COVID-19 restrictions, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has updated its guidance in respect of risk assessments during the pandemic.  Further details can be found on the HSE website.  Essentially, HSE advises that a general risk assessment is not sufficient, and employers must conduct a risk assessment that identifies what reasonable steps an employer must take to keep workers and others safe from COVID-19.  Any risk assessment should reflect public health regulations and guidelines.

When conducting a risk assessment, an employer should consider the different ways in which the virus can spread within the workplace, and accordingly put measures in place which would minimise these risks. These include but are not limited to providing adequate ventilation, encouraging the use of face coverings by workers in enclosed spaces and maintaining regular cleaning of surfaces that employees may touch regularly.  It is also important to consider any vulnerable workers and ensure that controls are put in place.

The risk assessment must be reviewed regularly to identify any adjustments or improvements that could be made.

Completing a risk assessment will help determine whether as an employer, you have done everything reasonably possible to promote the health and safety of your employees and manage workplace risks. It is a legal requirement to consult your employees in relation to health and safety matters, however, it is considered best practice to involve your employees on how best to manage risks in the workplace. Employers should also consider whether making reasonable adjustments in relation to your workforce would be applicable.

Returning to work

If, as an employer, you are looking to return to the workplace following the easing of lockdown, you should consider where appropriate, a phased return to work. It is recommended to openly discuss the return to the workplace with your employees to outline any concerns they may have. It is also important to consult the workforce on any health and safety measures that are in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Each employee may have different concerns about returning and some employees may be at a higher risk of severe illness if they contracted COVID-19, and although it is no longer advisory for those individuals to shield, as an employer, you should support those affected by discussing their individual needs and taking and additional precautions which may have been advised by their clinicians.

Furthermore, employers must remain proactive to the needs of the workforce. This is especially the case with employees who may not have been offered the second dose of the vaccine. In these circumstances, it may be beneficially to adopt certain practices to reduce the risk to those individuals in the workplace.

Employers may also want to consider a hybrid working policy. This would allow employees an element of home working. If this is something an employer wishes to implement, it should be discussed with those affected individuals.

Employers should also be aware of mental health issues brought on by COVID-19 or which may be triggered by a return to the workplace if staff feel anxious about returning.  It is important to speak to employees and listen to individual concerns.

Tips for employers:

The ‘priority actions to take’ for employers are:

  1. Review the updated HSE and government guidance on safe working
  2. Complete a health and safety risk assessment that includes the risk from Covid-19 and put in place adequate measures and controls
  3. Devise a strategy for communicating with workings and others, considering accessibility, individual needs, beliefs and cultures
  4. Explain how workers will be supported
  5. Remind all staff of the requirement of workplace controls, even if they have been vaccinated
  6. Following the HSE guidance on stress and mental health and ensure there is support and training for the well-being of staff
  7. Update or introduce a flexible working policy

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