Back to Work?

Is your workplace ready to welcome back employees and customers?

With the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme due to end on 31 October, many offices and businesses are making plans to reopen, in order to bring in much-needed revenue.

However, the prospect of a Covid-19 vaccine still remains some way off, so a return to “business as usual” is not on the cards any time soon.

Employers therefore need to think ahead and prepare a plan of action to ensure staff and visitors can attend the workplace safely:

Carry out a Risk Assessment

First carry out a Risk Assessment by following the Government’s Guidance on managing the risk of coronavirus (COVID-19) including:

  • Ensuring both workers and visitors who feel unwell stay at home and do not attend the premises
  • Increasing the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning
  • Wearing of masks, complying with 1m+ social distancing, supplying safety equipment, and safe shared spaces, introducing one-way systems
  • Considering screens or barriers to separate people from each other and using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible
  • Reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using fixed teams, so that each person works with only a few others

Stay current by checking Gov.UK regularly for updates.

Share your Risk Assessment

You should share the results of your Risk Assessment with your workforce for example by displaying this downloadable Health and Safety Executive Notice at work to reassure your employees and visitors that you have followed the guidance. You should also publish your Risk Assessment on your website if you have one.

Employment contracts and policies

Review your contracts of employment and policies to ensure that they apply to the COVID-secure workplace. Consider whether your workplace needs:

  • A working from home policy dealing with health and safety, confidentiality, information security and data privacy, provision of equipment and expenses
  • A return to work policy dealing with new Covid-related issues in the changing workplace, for example the wearing of masks, social distancing, cleaning, shared spaces and one-way systems
  • Updated GDPR policy to deal with data privacy issues and the processing of employee health information
  • Updated disciplinary and grievance procedures to allow for meetings to be conducted remotely
  • Updated sickness policy to accommodate clinically vulnerable employees who are shielding, or employees in quarantine under the Track & Trace procedure, or following an overseas trip
  • Amendments to contracts of employment provide the right to alter working hours, alter the place of work, to cover for absent colleagues, or even lay off employees if work diminishes

Redundancies

If your business is unable to support your pre-Covid workforce and you are forced to consider making some employees redundant, it is vital to approach the challenge methodically, fairly and with sensitivity. ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) recommends implementing a redundancy plan to manage each stage of the redundancy process, including:

  • avoiding compulsory redundancies where possible
  • consulting staff
  • selecting staff for redundancy fairly
  • giving staff notice
  • working out redundancy pay
  • supporting staff and planning for the future

Settlement Agreements

A Settlement Agreement can be a useful means to achieve a clean break at the end of the employment relationship, particularly where there has been an employer/employee dispute, disciplinary action or where the employer wants to ensure post-termination confidentiality or to protect its legitimate business interests.

Mike Blank

Consultant Solicitor heads our Employment Law department, advising both Employees and Employers.

Contact Mike to discuss how we can assist with an Employment related issue on 01895 612400 or email mblank@allsopdurn.co.uk

Our solicitors provide personalised guidance and experienced representation throughout the legal process, always working towards your best possible outcome.