Returning to the Workplace: Health and Safety

Most employers will now be preparing for a phased return to the workplace ready for when the government start encouraging those working from home to return to the office. Employers should be mindful of their health and safety obligations to ensure the appropriate measures are taken to safeguard the health and wellbeing of employees upon return.

Here we list actions that should be taken by employers ahead of staff returning to the workplace.

  • Carry out a detailed COVID-19 risk assessment and ensure social distancing measure are implemented, keeping people 2 meters apart where possible or where this is not possible using screens as physical barriers to stop the spread of infection. Action should also be taken to ensure general ventilation is in place, such as keeping windows open or installing systems to ventilate the airflow.
  • Communicate with staff to make sure they are aware of the rules and procedures in place to protect their health and wellbeing and that they are taking the appropriate precautions such as regular hand washing. Employers should actively monitor the latest government advice, and ensure it is communicated to employees, keeping them up to date with any new changes. Maybe consider dedicating a section of your intranet to latest news and advice.
  • Ensure cleaning arrangements are in place and any equipment such as hand sanitiser for increased personal hygiene, and wipes for environmental cleanliness are provided. PPE should also be provided, including masks and gloves. These should be worn where required unless an employee is exempt for health reasons.
  • Where possible keep face-to-face meetings at minimum. Continue to make good use of technology for virtual meetings and video conferencing to avoid staff making journeys into the office where avoidable.
  • Help staff work from home where possible. This is considered by the government as the most effective way to help minimise exposure to COVID-19. Perhaps consider returning those who cannot work from home effectively first and carefully consider who needs to be in the office to carry out their job role. Staggering working hours to limit the number of people in the office at one time and closing communal areas, keeping teams/departments together and separate from one another can also be an effective way of safely returning staff to the workplace.
  • Ensure you are keeping staff informed of any changes or requirements and consider any concerns they may have in returning to the workplace. A lot of staff may feel anxious about returning. It will help to inform employees of what to expect, and what will be expected of them upon return, to ensure they comply with rules and procedures to keep themselves and colleagues safe.

Our top tip: Consider creating a return to work plan for your business. This will help ensure you remember to take all the safety precautions necessary, and nothing gets forgotten in the phased return.

Workplace health and safety advice can be found on the HSE, Acas and CIPD websites or speak to a H&S consultant for more information contact [email protected].