Like many business owners in the UK, you might be gearing up to start bringing your employees back into the workplace. We’ve written this blog to help streamline this process for you, because there are a lot of things you need to consider and complete beforehand.
The Three Tests
Before we even get into the list, you are being urged to ask yourself if bringing your employees back to work passes 3 tests:
- Is it essential? If your employees can’t work from home, is it essential that they return to the workplace, or can you continue to utilise the Government’s Job Retention Scheme?
- Is it safe? You have a duty of care to your employees, so you need to be certain that bringing them back to work isn’t jeopardising their health and safety. You should begin by bringing in gradual returns to work, rather than allowing your entire workforce back at once. Staggering it is very important.
- Is it mutually agreed? A lot of employees may have concerns about returning to work that have nothing to do with the workplace itself. For example, many people use public transport as a means of getting to work. These people might have no alternative way of getting to work, and are hesitant to risk potential exposure to the coronavirus on a busy bus or tube.
With that being said, you should heed the following advice if you want to get your employees back in the building as soon as possible.
Nine Things you need to know.
1 – Carry out a coronavirus risk assessment. This is a requirement of the government’s new Coronavirus Recovery Strategy. Although most non-essential retail, hospitality, and leisure businesses (such as cinemas and so on), are not going to be reopened until the 4th of July at the earliest, the Government has allowed some businesses to reopen, and for employees of these businesses to return to work unless they can still work from home. If you’re uncertain whether your business falls into one of the sectors allowed to return to work, the Government has provided a guide to the 8 sectors.
Before this is possible however, you must create and regularly update a risk assessment form for your workplace, outlining any potential hazards, including obviously the ways in which coronavirus might spread throughout the workplace.
It’s important that you actually abide by your risk assessment too, because the Health and Safety Executive will be conducting spot checks to ensure that businesses aren’t bringing back workers too soon. If your business is seen to fall short of their expectations, it could cause you and your business even more problems.
Members of Business First Network have access to an incredible library, rich in business related resources and documents, including risk assessment templates. If you’d like to access this library, get in touch with us. Just book a call with one of our experts and we’ll get you started. Just click the link below and pick a time that suits you! https://meetings.hubspot.com/michael1146/book-a-call-back
2 – Modify your workplace where possible, to try and reduce any unnecessary contact. It’s easiest to look at the supermarkets for just one such example of this. The likes of Tesco and so on have introduced a one way system instore, meaning there are fewer instances where you are walking past people down the aisles. One of the ways this is important, is because it is easier for infections to happen when face to face with someone, rather than side to side and so on. Although it mightn’t be possible to enforce a strict one way system throughout the entirety of your workplace, it may be possible – and certainly beneficial, especially for your risk assessment – if you can utilise this small example of adapting your business.
You are still expected to try and maintain a distance of 2 metres between individuals. This is important to consider, especially when it comes to managing things like meetings and interviews. Another point for consideration is around communal areas such as canteens or kitchen areas. It may be a matter of thinking creatively if you are to overcome these obstacles.
3 – Create regular groups and rotas. This one is really important. If you can arrange your workforce into specific teams that work together, without interacting with other employees, then you can limit the chances of the virus spreading. Furthermore, should one member of a specific work group fall ill, it is much easier to trace who they have been in contact with and ask them to self-isolate.
4 – Update your employment conditions. You need to put yourselves in the shoes of your employees for this one. They need to know that they’ll be protected when they return to work, especially in terms of sick leave and sick pay etc. At this moment in time, we’re unsure whether the government’s business support schemes will continue to help you on this front, especially if you start regular business operation again. But as an employer, it’s important that you protect your employees and ensure they feel safe to return to work.
If you need help updating your Employment Terms and Conditions, we recommend booking a call with one of our experts. We’ll provide some great advice to make sure you follow any legal requirements during the process. Click the link below and choose a time that suits you best.
5 – Create some strict workplace rules. This is a simple thing that a lot of business owners will overlook, but it’s a matter of ensuring your employees adhere to good standards of hygiene and so on. You could enforce a rule whereby all employees must wipe down keyboards and desks at the start and end of each day (another point to remember; you will have to supply sanitiser).
6 – Remember that the impacts of the pandemic may have affected your employees. The pandemic has taken a great tole on the world as a whole, but it has also impacted each individual in very different ways. Many of your employees may have struggled with their mental health during isolation, others may have been stressed about finances or having to care for elderly relatives. Some may even be coming to terms with a bereavement. It is important to remember that your business will not return to normal overnight. You should not expect too much of your employees straight away, returning to work after having to adjust to such a widespread change of lifestyle will be hard for some. It might be a good idea to consider a re-induction to the workplace, whereby you have a one to one meeting with each employee to discuss their concerns and expectations.
7 – Hopefully you will have a written agreement arranged when you began furloughing your staff.. and hopefully this will have covered the period of time it will allow each employee to return to work once they are allowed to do so. If not though, don’t worry. We suggest that you give your employees a decent amount of notice before expecting them back in the workplace, as many people will have to make certain arrangements for family members and so on before they can return. The pandemic has wreaked havoc with people’s lives, and many of them will have had to make drastic changes to their lifestyle in order to manage. You must consider how easy it will be to readjust to getting back to work.
8 – Ensure your payroll staff are aware of what is happening. You want to make sure that the furlough period for the staff you plan on bringing back has been brought to a halt, so make sure your payroll staff are up to date on who you are bringing back, and when.
9 – Assess just how much work you have coming in. Can you afford to bring back every employee straight away? Will you be able to pay each employee their full wage? Consider these questions carefully before you commit to bringing everyone back at once. It may be a matter of reducing working hours for each employee, further furloughing some staff, or even making some redundancies. Each of these options have impacts of their own.
Three options to bring your staff back to work:
- Reducing an employee’s working hours maybe an ideal result for you, but it might not be the same for your employee. You need to make it very clear to your employee your reasons for reducing their hours, and more importantly, it will need to be agreed with them in writing. The fact is some employees may resent the fact you are asking them to do work for less money than they might receive if furloughed. It’s a difficult option to navigate, but if you can both benefit from it, it’s one that should absolutely be utilised.
- The Government’s furlough scheme has been extended to October 2020, so if you can’t afford to bring all of your staff back, you could leave some furloughed for a few more months. If your original furlough agreement contained any specific criteria – for example, an end date – then you may have to update these agreements with your staff. Moreover, you need to be clear in your reasoning why some staff are being brought back to work, and others aren’t. Some employees may feel hard done by if they are left furloughed whilst others return to work.
- Finally, an option that I’m sure you would want to avoid if at all possible, redundancies. Times may be extremely tough for many businesses in the coming months and years, such has been the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. It will also be a period of financial struggle for many individuals, so redundancy isn’t an option to be taken to lightly. However, at Business First Network, we know that sometimes it is the only option.
The important thing to remember is that it is carried out correctly and appropriately. You must ensure you follow all rules and regulations, because the last thing you will want is to end up in an unlawful termination tribunal when you are trying to get your business back on its feet. Business First Network offers 24/7 legal and HR advice to its members, so if redundancies are a route you plan on taking, we recommend getting in touch with us before you do.
So, there you go, 9 crucial considerations for getting your staff back to work. Of course, every business is different and brings with it its own hurdles to get over, but we hope that this blog will help you on your way back to normal business operation. If you’ve got any questions about getting staff back to work, we’d love to hear from you.
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