Category: Coronavirus

Getting back to work: Reopening your workplace

By Wendy McNulty

15 May 2020

The Government has released its Covid-19 Secure guidance, but what does it mean for individuals and businesses wanting to get back to work?

To support businesses to get back up and running, the government’s COVID-19 Secure guidance includes eight guides, which cover a range of different types of workplace and measures they need to put in place to protect their employees.

These are the five key points from each guide that businesses need to consider when reopening:


1. Work from Home

Employers should continue to enable employees to work from home where possible, particularly the clinically vulnerable. However, for businesses where it is impossible to work from home and the workplace has not been told to close, employees should go to work if they can. 

The employer must ensure that all steps have been taken under the COVID-19 Secure guidance to make the workplace a safe place to work. If the workplace has the appropriate measures in place and the employee can commute to the workplace safely, it is then a matter of employer discretion as to whether the employee can continue to work from home.

If employees refuse to return to the workplace once they have been told they can, employers will need to carefully consider the circumstances of any such refusal. Some employees may be exempt because of disability or carers responsibilities.

Employers should monitor the wellbeing of people who are working from home and help them stay connected to the rest of the workforce, especially if the majority of their colleagues are on-site.


2. Risk Assessments

The Government is advising businesses to carry out COVID-19 risk assessments in consultation with workers or trade unions. The results should be shared with employees and the government is advising all businesses with over 50 employees to publish the results of their assessments on their website.


3. Maintain two metres social distancing

Workspaces and protocols should be redesigned and updated to enable two metre distances to be kept between people. This can include:

  • staggering start times
  • creating one-way walk-throughs
  • opening more entrances and exits
  • changing seating layouts
  • encourage walking and cycling when commuting to work and increasing bike storage facilities


4. Manage transmission risk

Where people cannot be two metres apart. In these instances, employers should:

  • put barriers in shared spaces 
  • create shift patterns or rotas to keep smaller, contained teams
  • position employees back-to-back or side-to-side (rather than face-to-face) 
  • provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points
  • keep the activity time involved as short as possible


5. Cleaning

Evidence suggests that the virus can exist for up to 72 hours on surfaces. Therefore, workplaces should be cleaned more frequently, paying close attention to high-contact objects like door handles and tea areas. 


The eight workplaces

Employers have a duty to assess and manage risks to their employees’ safety. To support businesses, the government has released guidelines for eight different workplaces. The full guidance can be viewed below:

  1. Construction
  2. Factories, plants and warehouses
  3. Homes
  4. Labs and research facilities
  5. Offices and contact centres
  6. Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery
  7. Shops and branches
  8. Vehicles
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