The UK Government has announced further liftings to COVID-19 restrictions with many businesses free to reopen at their discretion from 4 July – this weekend!
Restrictions may have eased – for some – but employers must continue to stay vigilant as their organisations resume operations and their staff return to work. The CIPD’s Chief Executive, Peter Cheese, has warned ‘the return to work is a massive undertaking for employers’, and that leaders must carefully balance the needs of the business with the physical and mental health of their employees going forward.
Here are five of the best online resources we’ve found to help HR execute their return to work strategies, so you can help support your staff as lockdown eases.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government has updated its sector-specific advice, now covering close contact services. This ranges from hotels and other guest accommodations, to heritage sites, shops and branches.
The Government hub offers links to guidance for employers to ensure their safe reopening. Beyond providing scenarios and tips for managing infection risks, and maintaining sanitary working conditions, the site also details how businesses can assist the NHS Test and Trace service. They recommend that a temporary record of visitors to the premises is kept; this could be invaluable in containing clusters of COVID-19 infection or outbreaks.
We suggest you monitor the Government website – especially as restrictions on businesses hopefully continue to ease in the coming months.
The CIPD’s return to work hub
The CIPD has amended its in-depth ‘COVID-19: returning to the workplace’ guide aimed at supporting employers in their business recovery plans.
Using the hub, HR professionals can learn how to effectively ease staff back into work, such as by implementing a flexible furlough policy as the Job Retention Scheme is extended from July to October. Beyond this, employers can also follow a thorough return-to-work plan, which highlights:
- reorientation and reintroduction of staff to work premises
- how you can support managers who will be feeling unseen pressure
- how you can maintain inclusivity, as you make staff feel involved in their return to work.
Employers seeking to demonstrate sensitivity to their people’s concerns, and readiness to answer their questions, will benefit from the CIPD’s content.
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service has provided information on how to stay compliant while bringing people back to work on its coronavirus hub. It discusses:
- consulting with staff and how to reach agreements with staff on their return
- making the workplace safe, having conducted a thorough risk assessment
- following government guidelines
- what to do if an employee does not want to return to work.
While concise, it’s a useful delineation of the massively complex employment issues at hand, including variables you may not have considered. These range from holiday and sickness absence to adjustments to contractual employment and more. ACAS’ hub provides an excellent starting point for employers, as well as a useful resource point as you navigate COVID-19 challenges.
The Society of Occupational Medicine Toolkit
The Society of Occupational Medicine’s (SOM) toolkit is a thorough document drafted in collaboration with ACAS, the CIPD, Mind, and Business in the Community. It’s an in-depth article, providing detailed advice on supporting worker wellbeing and controlling the risks of infection upon returning to work, while also providing referrals to professional health organisations and independent bodies willing to assist you.
The SOM’s support materials offer not only a rigorous risk assessment checklist, but provide numerous examples of workplace situations and risk judgments, alongside their many possible solutions. You can also find their thorough podcast here, if you’d rather listen to this useful information.
We suggest the toolkit to anyone unsure about how to provide reassurance to staff that all risks have been taken seriously, and the workplace is fit for return.
Trades Union Congress Proposals
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) ‘proposals on ensuring a safe return to work‘ web page is a handy reference tool for employers and HR managers that want to think about what more they can do to reassure staff in the next few months, beyond following government guidelines, and waiting for the laws to change. For instance, the TUC calls attention to diversity, highlighting that Black and ethnic minority workers have suffered disproportionately from the impact of COVID-19, and that special considerations may need to be on the table.
As the name of the page suggests, it’s a good indication of workplace issues and workers’ concerns that have yet to emerge on the Government’s agenda, such as mandatory risk assessments, and workplace issues that may not become apparent until business operations begin again. If you’re an employer in an industry where a union is recognised, checking in on this website regularly will add an extra perspective to issues you might need to take into consideration in your return-to-work strategy.
For businesses to reopen and thrive, employers must safeguard the physical and mental health of their staff and their customers. These resources can help bring you one step closer to achieving this.