How are you planning for your staff returning to work after lockdown?
After the Governments announcement on 10 May 2020 and further clarification on 11 May many company bosses will be looking to see how they can support their staff returning to work after lockdown. Whether staff have been working from home, laid-off or furloughed, senior leaders have decisions to make.
The good news is there is actually little change at this immediate time. Government Guidance is telling us to continue as normal if we can work from home. So the message is:
continue to work from home if you can.
Today the Chancellor announced the economy shrank by 2% in the first three months of the year. These figures show a contraction of 5.8% in March GDP (gross domestic product). This constitutes the biggest monthly fall on record. Steps are therefore being put in place to restart the economy with manufacturing and construction industries being encourage to return.
Recession brings with it lay-offs, short-time working and ultimately redundancies. Senior leaders in organisations that are struggling to recover after lockdown may have to reduce the workforce and are wondering how they can retain as many jobs as possible.
Returning to work after lockdown
We are still in a pandemic but some restrictions have been lifted.
So how do we address the employment issues this brings?
Return to work should be:
- planned; and
- staff should be able to get there safely. Government advice is not to travel on public transport.
The key people issues are:
- Health & Safety;
- Mental Health; and
- Diversity and Inclusion.
Health & Safety
COVID-19 is a hazard and needs a risk assessment. Contact us if you’d like a Lockdown return to work Risk Assessment.
Establish a project team to help plan the return to work. Include front line workers, estates and or facilities teams in the group, and if you have a HR team they should be at the forefront of the project. Front line staff will provide insight to hazards that senior leaders may be too removed to identify.
Deep Clean and Hygiene
Deep clean the building prior to returning staff to work. Where previously soap missing from the loos and washrooms may not have posed a hazard, it does now. Make sure there is plenty of soap available for staff, together with hand washing and self-care signage is displayed widely.
On entry to the building and in public areas ensure hand gel and antibacterial wipes are available.
Communal areas including staff rooms and kitchens after use should be cleaned and left empty for at least 45 minutes before the next cohort of staff enter.
Hot-desking should be either kept to a minimum or postponed until we are back to normal working conditions and the risk is lifted.
In terms of shift work, environments should be effectively cleaned between shifts wherever possible prior to the next shift workers attending for work.
Masks and gloves are not being advised, however, we would recommend allowing staff who request to wear them for protection, assuming that does not increase risk of other hazards.
The two metre social distancing still stands. Scientists have advised due to the airborne spread, staff should not only be seated two metres apart but also side by side rather than face to face at their desks.
Create a policy on visitors to the workplace. Make this clear to all staff, specifically reception workers or security staff.
Government guidelines encourage people to travel to work using their own transport, walking, cycling, but avoiding public transport. Check that your staff can get to work safely, observing social distancing. Think about business travel too. This should be essential travel only.
We’re seeing heightened levels of stress over the period of lockdown. People are fearful of the virus, struggling with the changes to routine, and in many cases fearful for their jobs.
Communication is key. It should be two way, whether via Trade Unions or directly with staff. These situations call for clarity, consultation and direction.
It is important to risk assess vulnerable groups prior to return, if they are able to return. Our risk assessment highlights vulnerable groups.
Have conversations with those who are shielding as soon as possible to explore options. Act fairly and reasonably demonstrating:
- you’ve undertaken risk assessments;
- you’ve considered and discussed reasonable adjustments;
- continued furlough has been considered;
- staggered work patterns, homeworking, and shifts have been considered; and
- as a last resort unpaid leave has been offered.
Be willing to explore all solutions. Listen to your employee. Listen to those who have fears. Check out their nervousness and keep communication channels open.
Demonstrate clarity from the outset. Be clear on:
- What you’re doing;
- Why you’re doing it;
- How things will be done or work in practice, and
- What is expected of the workforce.
Ensure staff understand how you will manage:
- Annual leave;
- Caring responsibilities;
- COVID-19 deaths; and
- Selection for return and furlough, where not all staff are required to return to work.
Be careful not to discriminate against minority groups or vulnerable groups.
We’re entering hard times. Any changes to terms and conditions require normal rules of consultation, particularly if they constitute a fundamental change to the contract of employment. Some organisations may have lay-off and / or short-time working in their contracts which will allow them to implement this in order to safe guard jobs in the longer term.
If you know redundancies are unavoidable think about how many staff are affected. It could be that you need to be initiating consultation very soon if you are making 100+ staff redundant. Keep and eye on your timescales.
- Only request that staff return to work if they can’t work from home. Do a business continuity risk matrix to establish which staff are critical to the business;
- Staff can be furloughed until October 2020, moving to reducing furlough between August and October;
- Make sure the workplace is safe to return to and you can ensure the health & wellness of staff;
- Consider staff with childcare issues;
- Address staff requiring to travel to work on public transport;
- You have risk assessments and policies in place;
- Health & Safety covers psychological safety as well as physical and the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974 remains unchanged; and
- Listen to staff fears and objections, Detriment s44(1)(d) and (e) ERA 1996 Dismissal s100(1)(d) and (e) ERA 1996 applies.