post lockdown return to the workplace: part 1

post lockdown return to the workplace: part 1

The roadmap out of lock down is in motion so we now need to prepare to return to the workplace.  On 12 April non-essential retail, some aspects of the hospitality industry and certain public services opened their doors.  From 17 May it is expected that most other businesses will be able to reopen, to include indoor hospitality.  Just five weeks later, on 21 June, most restrictions are expected to be lifted.

So with the re-opening of society comes the opportunity (or indeed the necessity) for workplaces to re-open. Current advice remains that people should continue to work at home, if possible, but further guidance is expected as part of the government review in the coming days concerning the return to the workplace.

Just last week Goldman Sachs were among the first of the large businesses to inform their bankers that they will be expected back in the office full time in June.  Not all employers will be making similar announcements at this time, but it is only a question of time before others follow suit. JP Morgan has.

This is the first in a series of didlaw blogs as we follow the roadmap out of lockdown and witness millions being ordered back to the workplace.  We will highlight employer obligations, consider employee concerns and the change of dynamics in working life as we have to come to know it.

It’s certainly a busy and uncertain time for businesses as they review the regulations, Covid stats and consider arrangements for welcoming employees back to the workplace in the coming weeks.  Some employees will embrace the return to office life, for others there will be challenges and concerns relating to the workplace and the commute on public transport. It’s not going to be a smooth road(map) for all.

Businesses should ensure that they have a COVID-19 secure workplace which will be mindful of advice, restrictions and employee concerns following a return to work strategy.  They will also need to be flexible and adapt to the change in advice and altering of restrictions going forward.

The CIPD recommends three key tests when reviewing whether to bring people back to work: 

  • Is it essential?
  • Is it sufficiently safe?
  • Is it mutually agreed? 

Business are encouraged to update their coronavirus risk assessment, share this with staff and meaningfully consult with employees in advance of compelling them to return to the workplace.  The risk assessment should observe the following:

  • The physical layout of the office space, desks and review of one-way systems
  • Social distancing guidelines and associated measures such as face coverings in communal areas
  • Adequate and regular cleaning
  • Ventilation
  • The requirement for PPE
  • The necessity/option for testing or vaccinations of staff
  • Protocols for visitors

ACAS also have a series of coronavirus related guides and advice for employers and employees which can be accessed here.

Stay tuned for the didlaw post lockdown return to the workplace: part 2 blog coming next week where we focus on the health and safety concerns of employees with medical conditions, disabilities or those living with the clinically vulnerable.

In previous didlaw blogs on the topic of coronavirus more generally we have covered the issues of no jab, no job, workplace covid testing and vaccinations, employees being pressured to breach covid rules, self-isolation and sick pay, mandatory vaccines for care home staff and hybrid working .

This blog is by Caroline Oliver, Senior Solicitor at Didlaw