Employment Law: Returning to Work | September 2020
September is the time we associate with the new academic year and returning to school and studying. The Employment Law updates for the last few months have focused on Covid-19, looking at the furlough scheme, flexible furlough etc - however, for this month’s update, we're sharing up to date news and information regarding 'returning to work' and what roles and responsibilities employers face in order to keep their staff safe.
The headlines this week have shown some organisations who have made the decision not to return to the workplace until 2021. Whilst that it is the correct choice for some companies, every organisation will have to make informed choices based on their individual business requirements. Realistically, when writing this, no-one is sure if another Covid-19 spike will occur this winter, therefore it's important for your business to be prepared and have the correct contingency plans in place.
Now is the time for you to consider your premises and ensure that, as an employer, you are meeting your responsibilities. For example, if asking employees to return to work; ensuring seating and desk areas comply with social distancing requirements. It is understandable not every work environment will have the space to do this so a helpful alternative could be to look at staggering staff in the office e.g: one week in the office, the next working from home or alternate days. This will allow for staffing to be reduced in the office, however, make sure you have enough team members present to fulfill the needs of the businesses. To give you guidance and suggestions on different working practices, the CIPD have prepared several useful guides that may assist you and your management team in making suggestions for the future.
It may also be beneficial for you to think of your staff structure in the concept of “bubbles”, ensuring key staff are not always in the office at the same time. Therefore, if a situation such as self-isolation occurs, your business can still continue operating effectively. Current information on the changing requirements of self-isolation and quarantine is available from the gov.uk website and is a positive source to refer to on a regular basis.
Many businesses have now been working from home for approximately 6 months or longer, if you are planning to continue this way, ensure your staff are:
- Still feeling valued and motivated with both work and their working from home arrangements. Have you taken time to undertake a review meeting? Check how staff performance is, are there any concerns from your employees?
- Many staff were asked to work from home at extremely short notice and did not have appropriate working facilities. Some line managers in the last couple of months have purchased equipment for staff e.g. chairs, a second computer screen and appropriate tables to sit at rather than the sofa! If you have not already checked working from home procedures, this would be an essential action to undertake as soon as possible. The rationale for doing so is you do not want your staff to suffer any injuries and by undertaking a Risk Assessment, this will protect you as an employer.
- As none of us can predict what will happen as we move towards autumn and winter, it's important that you continue to keep your staff informed and up to date as your business prepares for the future. Ask your team if they need any further support. If you put any new actions in place earlier this year, such as a weekly staff meeting, are they still working or do they need to be reviewed? Remember that your staff may have positive contributions to make about the business!
- Keep in mind every staff member will have different personal circumstances and checking how things are can help alleviate any issues. Keeping the dialogue open is so important!
- The thought of Christmas preparation may not seem appropriate this year, however for some organisations it is a time when they have shared time with staff and partners at a traditional “Christmas Do”. We realise that may not be possible this year, however, perhaps planning now can help you think of different ways you can reward your team and keep them feeling engaged.
- Ensuring that your staff have the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is vital. Every workplace will differ with requirements, however it is your responsibility to provide the necessary equipment required for staff to do their role. This applies to Covid-19 requirements e.g. anti-bacterial wipes, cleaning equipment etc. To check you are complying with relevant requirements please refer to the HSE website for guidance.
In addition, please regularly review Risk Assessments to ensure you are meeting legal requirements and if you have not completed any so far, please review the HSE website and the employer’s responsibilities. In addition, please remember that if your organisation has a professional body, they can provide specific guidance and support to assist with Risk Assessments and general guidance.
Finally, the team here at cHRysos HR wish you and your team a safe and successful autumn. If you have any HR issues and would like to talk them through with our team, please contact us.
cHRysos HR Solutions is a Doncaster based HR training and consultancy company providing CIPD and CMI accredited qualifications, Apprenticeships and HR Services to SMEs, nationwide. For more information about how cHRysos HR can help you successfully achieve further qualifications contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0)1302 802128.