Current government advice is that if we can, we should continue to work from home. However, the recent easing of restrictions has meant that many more businesses can now start thinking about a return to the workplace. This new normal will be a big adjustment for everyone, but the main priority for employers should be helping workers return safely.
To help you plan for an eventual return to the workplace, we have created a checklist of all the things you need to consider – you can download it here. Below are some of the considerations our checklist includes:
Will you end or extend furlough?
The latest announcement from the government is that the furlough scheme will remain in its current format until the end of July and will run until the end of October. There will be an opportunity to bring employees back to work on a part time basis under ‘flexible furlough’ but the government will be asking employers to “share” the cost of the 80% wages.
You will need to carefully consider your business’s use of the furlough scheme and give employees reasonable notice if you expect them back at work – you want engaged and happy employees so communicate with them as soon as possible to ensure there are no issues.
Have you carried out a workplace risk assessment?
A workplace risk assessment should be conducted before employees return to work after lockdown, to identify the measures that need to be put in place to protect employees and customers from the risk of infection. Managers should also reinforce key government health messages to staff such as washing hands regularly and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces. Likewise, if your teams continue to work from home you should outline the working arrangements that will be put in place to support staff.
Who can continue to work from home?
If people can continue to work from home they must continue to do so for the foreseeable future, so think about whether it is essential for you to bring staff back into the workplace? You will need to be flexible and support employees to accommodate different working arrangements. Many workers will be anxious about being in the workplace and will want to know their employer is supporting their physical and mental health by thinking about flexible and home working.
Do you need to seek HR advice on any redundancy issues?
To run an effective redundancy process, you must be clear about the reasons for the redundancies and communicate and consult openly with all employees. For a redundancy to be genuine, you should ensure that the selection criteria you use is objective and fairly applied and you must be able to demonstrate that the employee’s job will no longer exist. The redundancy process is complex and you need to be conducting the process legally, we recommend seeking HR support if you are unsure of employee rights or you are concerned about an employee making a claim.
How do you arrange workspaces for social distancing?
While planning for the return to work you need to make sure that staff are able to maintain a 2m physical distance between each other. This may mean readjusting the layout of the workspace and you might consider introducing staggered start and finish times. Understandably, the bigger your team the harder this will be, so it might be that you split your employees into smaller teams that come into the workplace on alternate days.
More questions like these can be found in the back to work checklist, which is a useful tool when planning for the eventual return to the workplace. You may find you face other challenges during this process and we can help you with any questions you may have. Feel free to contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.