It’s over a year into the Covid-19 pandemic, and whilst we all hoped that things would be back to normal by now, it is clear that “normal” workplaces are a long way off. With the Government’s roadmap moving along and many businesses returning to the workplace and emerging from restrictions, here are a few considerations for employers before opening doors to staff and customers.
- Risk assessments – To ensure compliance with your duty to provide a safe working environment, you should carry out and implement suitable risk assessments which may include dealing with PPE, social distancing, contact with colleagues and members of the public. Does your insurance policy cover the business in the event that a member of staff contracts COVID-19 whilst at work?
- Assess existing working practices – Consideration needs to be given to employees’ roles, hours of work, terms of employment, location, flexible/remote working, and social distancing. Is it worthwhile considering the use of shift working to limit the number of staff on site to enable this? Staff may have contractually agreed working hours and change to these may require employee consultation.
- Staff wellbeing/morale – The pandemic has affected people psychologically as well as physically. Consider ways in which you can support staff in their return to the workplace and ensure any Covid-19 policies/health and safety information is up to date and communicated to staff in line with Government guidance and public health information. Consult with employees to understand their concerns in returning to the workplace and consider how concerns can be eased. Inform staff of any employee support programmes that may help.
- Review your existing contracts of employment – Should any terms of employment be updated/amended to assist the business in the event of a similar crisis in the future? Consideration could be given to including short-time or lay off clauses.
- Contingency plans – Review and consider any lessons learnt from the experience that can be of use in a similar situation going forward. Should any terms of employment be updated or amended to assist the business in the event of a similar crisis in the future?
It is important for businesses to plan effectively to achieve a smooth return to work and ensure that employees’ health is properly protected whilst enabling the business to run as efficiently as possible.