Following the unveiling of the roadmap out of this lockdown and even looking ahead to a return to some semblance of normality, including moving back to the physical workplace, it is worth taking time now to consider your obligations as an employer around managing this for your employees.
There will undoubtedly be some practical challenges as well as those related to supporting the needs of your employees but here are some of the (many) points to ponder:
- Communication is essential and, where possible, supportive one-to-one conversations with employees should take place sooner rather than later. This is an opportunity to address concerns and discuss any adjustments or individual support that might be needed.
- Risk assessments should be carried out and/or kept under review. These should include not only the potential risks to employees returning to work but also visitors, clients and customers who may need to enter the workplace. Remember the obligation to ensure the health and safety of everybody here.
- Health and safety is a contractual obligation of an employer and includes both the physical and mental health of employees. This is an opportunity to review equipment and resources as well as the provision of PPE if needed. This also may be a good time to review Health and Safety training.
- Wellbeing of employees is always important, but even more so after such an unprecedented time and the management of stress and mental health will be high on the agenda. This could be the perfect time to review policies and/or procedures and be clear about signposting employees to the support that is available.
- Furlough – or more specifically ‘un-furloughing.’ Ensure that you treat your employees fairly and avoid any acts which could be thought to be discriminatory. Think about your ‘un-furlough’ plan carefully and who you might bring back to work first. You could consider asking for volunteers or simply base it on business need. Whatever your method, ensure it is fair and equitable.
- Notice of return – Give your employees as much notice as you are able to. This is especially important for those with childcare arrangements to make or have other caring responsibilities.
Above all else, remember that you cannot over-communicate with your employees about any plans to return to the workplace. If possible, try to speak to them before making firm decisions or putting plans in writing – this can only foster feelings of belonging and understanding and may allay fears from some who feel anxious about a return.
Get in touch
If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, our Employment Law and HR team would be delighted to hear from you.
Melanie Rowe (Senior Associate)