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Back to the workplace – what should employers be thinking about? Back to the workplace – what should employers be thinking about?

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Jul 21

Back to the workplace – what should employers be thinking about?

Written by Liz Pollock
Associate

DDI: 01423 724608
E: liz.pollock@raworths.co.uk

If you are an employer then you, like many others, are probably trying to work out the best means of managing your staff and productivity now that ‘Freedom Day’ has finally arrived.

Should we all return to the workplace? Would a hybrid scenario (part home/part workplace) be better? Should employees be double vaccinated before they can return, or at least tested?

In our series of articles this week, we will be offering advice for employers on the do’s and don’ts as well as best practice, to help you maintain staff wellbeing and productivity.

Week One: Business as normal?

As an employer, the immediate question is do you want to return to ‘business as normal’?  Is a hybrid work pattern, that includes both office and home working the way forward?  Are there positives we can take from our recent experiences and benefit from, that mean we don’t go backwards?

Whilst we have all experienced the pandemic, we haven’t all experienced it in the same way.  Some employees may have conditions that mean they are more likely to get ill from COVID-19 even after vaccinations and consequently they may be reluctant to return to the workplace, while others may be quite eager to leave their homes, to socialise and interact with colleagues in the workplace.  Childcare or other caring responsibilities may make it more difficult for some.  In addition, mental health continues to be a major issue with cases rising dramatically during the pandemic and those suffering from Long Covid is becoming an increasing concern.

To maintain team morale and ensure employees are being listened to, make sure you ask staff how they feel. An employee survey is an effective tool to find out about individuals’ circumstances, their health (both physical and mental) and wellbeing. This will help employers to be properly informed and best placed to deal with any issues or concerns going forward.

Health and safety

Any return to the workplace must happen safely and all employers have a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees.  So where does that leave us post the so-called Freedom Day? The government has lifted all legal restrictions but placed the responsibility on individuals and on businesses to act as they feel is right, so there is a degree of ambiguity about what is the right thing to do. Every employer must make their own decision and would be helped by having a clear policy about face coverings, social distancing and other safety measures, so staff are clear about expectations. Several airlines have said they will continue to require passengers to wear face coverings after 19 July, while some rail, bus and coach operators will not.

Whether or not an employee might challenge any enforced safety measures (such as face coverings), now that restrictions have been legally lifted is still a grey area, although employers need to be mindful of all staff and particularly those who may be vulnerable.

Ultimately employers need to be sensitive to the impact that this transitional period may have on employees and regularly monitor its staff, to ensure employee wellbeing and company productivity are not being impacted negatively.

Published on 19 July 2021

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