The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has drastically impacted the way in which the majority of businesses function and many have chosen, or been forced, to work remotely to ensure the safety of staff and customers.

However, with the UK lockdown restrictions easing and the majority of businesses deciding now is the time to return to the workplace, it is important to understand what needs to be done to ensure the health and well-being of those coming back to work, a good start would be to consider a Coronavirus Risk Assessment.

Government guidelines

When returning to work, employers need to ensure that the government guidelines surrounding social distancing, PPE and sanitation are being followed and that any additional systems they need are implemented and enforced properly.

It is also recommended that employers conduct a full risk assessment and site inspection when they return to the workplace to ensure that they are able to keep employees and customers safe and protected as necessary.

If you are finding it difficult to correctly implement these systems and ensure that your workplace is safe, there are number of companies that offer support and assistance with risk assessments and some companies are even offering a specific Covid-19 support service for businesses returning back to the workplace.

Employee rights

When returning to work it is important to take into consideration the attitudes and feelings of employees as well as ensure that you understand their specific rights regarding their return to work.

Returning to the workplace during this difficult period is likely going to have a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of employees and understanding their views on returning to the workplace can be beneficial when deciding if it is the best choice for your business.

In regards to the rights employees have, UNISON have outlined specific rights employees have when returning to work, these include multiple factors such as:

  • If they are effected by school closures or travel restrictions
  • If they are part of one of the “at risk” groups
  • The use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Testing for key workers

It is important to understand that the rights various workers have, specifically regarding aspects like PPE, will vary from sector to sector and it is therefore essential that you research and understand your rights and the rights employees have.

It is also essential to understand that bringing employees back to the workplace will affect the government’s furlough scheme and employees have set rights under this scheme.

The government has recently outline how they plan to progress with the furlough scheme which outlines two main points. The first point outlined by the government was that employers can choose to bring employees back to work on a full wage at any time.

Alternatively, the government has outlined that from August any furloughed members of staff will be able to work for their employer part time, as a reduced grant is put in place. However, in this instance, the employer will be expected to cover a percentage of the wage depending on the amount of work being done.

Author's Bio: 

Peter Watson, Director at Watson & Watson Health and Safety Consultants. Watson & Watson are experienced health and safety consultants, providing health, safety and risk management solutions throughout the UK.