Since the 1st of August, employers have been able to discuss with their staff arrangements for returning to work. 

This return came as the government decided to loosen lockdown in previous weeks. 

The government has allowed people to use public transport once again, non-essential shops have re-opened and so have hairdressers, but these re-openings have all been permitted under the condition that masks are worn.

What’s Happening With Furlough?

While the guidance is still to remain on furlough or work from home if you can, employers are being allowed to re-introduce workers to the workplace, provided they have the necessary precautions in place.  

Furlough was introduced to enable employers to keep staff employed but take temporary leave. 

Wages are still paid but at a rate of 80% and this is funded by the government, with the remaining 20% being an optional top-up, paid by employers. 

The furlough scheme will be in place until October and will remain at a rate of 80%.

For many of us, returning to the office after months spent being furloughed can be daunting. 

Making the decision to go back to work or to stay on furlough can be a complex one.

While some people are eager to return to a sense of normality, others and especially those more at risk, are apprehensive.

Top Tip…

Share your COVID-19 Risk Assessment with your employees, to show what regimes and precautionary measures are being implemented. 

Having confidence that an employer is taking the health and safety of their staff seriously provides the peace of mind needed to make the return.

What Can Help Me Decide?

The government website has an Employee Risk Assessment system, through which you can check if you should go back to work. 

The system follows a questionnaire which asks about:

  • The type of work you do;
  • Your current health and if you have been shielding;
  • The situation within your household;
  • If you have dependants that make a return to work difficult.

There are three possible outcomes;

  • Yes, you should go back to work.
  • Yes, you should go back to work if the premises is COVID-secure, but you should still work from home if possible.
  • No, you should not go back to work.

The normal restrictions still apply; if you or any members of your household are showing any symptoms of the virus, then you must not go to work.

Should I Have A Fallback Plan?

There is also the possibility of ‘localised lockdowns’. 

This is where cities are put under temporary lockdown, usually if there is a sharp rise in cases. 

This was recently imposed on cities such as Leicester and parts of North England.  

In such a case, workers may have to go back on furlough or work from home. 

This is only a possibility, but employers should make plans for their staff to work from home if needed and where possible.

How Can I Make The Office COVID-Secure?

For offices (generally speaking) it is fairly easy to enforce social distancing and implement techniques of transmission prevention;

  • Plastic shields - often made to measure ones - are available for purchase specifically for office use;
  • Pump hand sanitisers can be allocated to individual’s desk and next to touchpoints around the office;
  • Intensify and multiply your office cleaning regime;
  • Put restrictions on the number of staff permitted to use communal areas such as bathrooms and kitchens;
  • Enable five-minute clean down times in both the morning and afternoon, where staff can sanitise their own desks;
  • Make PPE available in the office for workers to wear if they choose to;
  • Have teams with team members that consistently work together, rather than mixing them.

For more working-safely top tips, check the website.

If you need advice on whether re-opening the office to your staff is the right move, contact us.

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About the author 

James Rowland

James is the Commercial Director at Neathouse Partners and regularly writes articles surrounding issues in HR & Employment Law. Outside of the office, James is a keen Cricketer, playing in the Cheshire League for Nantwich CC. He also loves going to watch his football team, Crewe Alexandra. Feel free to connect with James on LinkedIn.