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On 04 July 2020, we saw what has been dubbed ‘Super Saturday’ as lockdown restrictions were eased, particularly in England. As we continue to see an easing of the lockdown measures, more employers are preparing to phase their workforces back to work.
Employers will likely need to be flexible as they put measures in place given that COVID-19 is expected to remain a risk for the foreseeable future. Like we saw in Leicester at the beginning of the month, a resurgence in infections may result in more localised lockdowns, and so employers must be mindful of this.
The purpose of this insight article is to:
On 11 May 2020, the Government published the first batch of its COVID-19 Secure guidelines, and at the time of writing, were updated on 03 July 2020.
The guidelines were the result of engagement between the Government, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), public health authorities, business representative groups, unions, employers and local authorities, to agree the best way to minimise the risks of catching the virus in the workplace.
The guidelines are listed HERE and are supported by five key steps to working safely which employers need to implement. They are:
1. Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment. Before employees are asked to return to work, employers should ensure the safety of their workplaces by:
When the Government announced the publication of the COVID-19 Secure guidelines, it suggested that employers should publish the results of their risk assessments on their websites and stated that the Government expected all businesses with over 50 employees to do so.
2. Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures. Employers are called on to ensure an increased frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning by:
3. Help people to work from home. Employers should take all reasonable steps to help people work from home by:
4. Maintain two-metre social distancing, where possible. Employers should do this by:
5. Where people cannot be two metres apart, manage transmission risk. Employers should do this by:
A downloadable poster, ‘Staying COVID-Secure in 2020’, has been produced reflecting the five steps which employers should display in their workplaces to show their employees, customers and other visitors that they have followed the Government’s guidance. It can be accessed HERE.
Acas has also produced a podcast called ‘How can we return to work well’, which you can listen to HERE:
The objective in all the workplace guidelines is to ensure that all workers understand COVID-19 related safety procedures. When returning to work, the guidelines suggest that employers should:
Thereafter, to ensure that all workers are kept up to date with how safety measures are being implemented or updated, the guidelines suggest that the following will usually be needed:
Many of the issues facing employers as they emerge from lockdown will be similar to those they faced when the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic started to impact on peoples’ lives and work.
While the rate of transmission of COVID-19 has been reduced by lockdown, it is expected that transmission will increase as lockdown measures are eased.
Employers may have been affected by high sickness absence levels before the lockdown was announced, either because their staff were ill or needed to self-isolate in accordance with government guidance. This may have impacted on an employer’s ability to carry out their normal business activities, and the likelihood of this continuing should be taken into account when they plan their path out of lockdown.
Employers may find that their employees’ mental health has been affected by any of the following:
Employers should take account of the impact on mental health when communicating with staff and organising a return to work. Those employers who already have provision to support employees’ mental health can direct them to their policies and resources.
Acas has published guidance, ‘Coronavirus and mental health at work’, to assist employers and employees in managing their mental health during the pandemic, whether they are working from home, anxious about having to leave home to go to work or are furloughed. The guidance suggests that employers may consider appointing a mental health champion or setting up a mental health support group. Workplace counselling, such as Employee Assistance Programmes, or using a Wellness Action Plan from the mental health charity, Mind, are other options for supporting employees’ wellbeing.
Public Health England has also published guidance (HERE) for the public on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of COVID-19, which considers groups with particular health needs and provides sources of support.
For more information and support on handling employees returning to work post-lockdown, contact us on 01332 226 149 or complete the form below.
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