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Safe return to the office


As we are all aware, from 16 August fully vaccinated people are no longer required to self-isolate following close contact with a positive COVID-19 case. However, it remains a legal requirement to self-isolate after a positive test or notification from NHS Test and Trace until 30 September. It is important to remember that employers who knowingly allow a self-isolating worker into the workplace risk a fixed penalty notice of up to £10,000.

We are open sign

In the most recent government guidance on the lifting of lockdown restrictions, companies employing people to work in an office or a similar environment should:

  • Complete an updated Health and Safety risk assessment including Covid-19 risk

  • Provide adequate ventilation through open windows, doors and vents, mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, or a combination of both

  • Clean more frequently

  • Turn away people with symptoms of coronavirus

  • Enable people to “check in” - whilst no longer legally required to collect customer contact details, doing so will support NHS Test and Trace

  • Communicate with and train all workers, contractors, and visitors on the company safety measures, including Covid-19 measures


The full guidance goes into detail for each area, we do strongly encourage you to review it with your own business in mind. However here are some points to consider.


Vulnerable workers

With the changing ways of working during the pandemic, many companies are implementing hybrid working models. It suggests that timing should be carefully considered, and that particular attention is given to those who are clinically vulnerable, disabled, or pregnant. It is suggested that these details are incorporated into your risk assessment and shared with all staff. There is also an expectation that companies with 50+ staff will publish their risk assessments on their website.


Social distancing

Whilst social distancing guidance no longer legally applies, the updated guidance does suggest that employers mitigate the risk of spreading Covid-19 by reducing the amount of contact between colleagues. Practical steps include using fixed teams or small groups. It also suggests that formal reviews of working area layouts are undertaken, with the use of screens or barriers being considered to separate people who cannot be distanced, or who come into close proximity with each other. Also ensure you consider what reasonable adjustments may be needed for disabled workers. In relation to desks or counters, where possible, try to assign them to one person and if shared they must be cleaned before the next person uses them.


Cleaning

Employers should ensure that there are arrangements in place for frequent cleaning of all surfaces that are touched regularly. This includes door handles, keyboards, pens etc. Employees should keep a clear workspace and remove any waste and belongings at the end of each shift, so the area can be easily cleaned. Keep equipment or area cleaning logs.


Face coverings

Face coverings are no longer required by law, however, the government expects and recommends that people continue to wear face coverings in crowded, enclosed spaces and that workers should be allowed to continue wearing face coverings in the workplace if they wish to. The guidance suggests that employers can still encourage the use of face coverings, particularly in indoor areas where individuals may come into contact with people they do not normally meet. When deciding whether to ask workers to wear a face covering, consideration will need to be given to reasonable adjustments for staff and clients with disabilities.


Workplace Outbreaks

Even vaccinated staff are not immune to infection and transmission, and therefore, may find themselves incapacitated by coronavirus. It is strongly recommended that employers are aware of this and plan to ensure continuity, maybe even introducing specific coronavirus policies into their current sickness management procedures.


Vaccination

Understandably, many employers will be interested to know if their staff are vaccinated or not, especially if their roles cannot be performed remotely. It is important that employers consider data protection laws and discrimination issues before gathering this information.


Workplace management

Communications will be critical to the success of any return-to-work process and regular updates to staff are vital. Given that many of these steps are likely to be considered as Health and Safety measures, it will be important that managers are fully aware of them, and possible sanctions for noncompliance.


There is so much guidance available to support and protect companies and employees. If you need help, please reach out to us by calling us on 01935 411 191 or email enquiries@rbhr.co.uk to speak to one of our consultants about this and any other HR related topic. A member of our consultancy team will be available to help you with any HR, Recruitment or Training queries you may have.




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