Returning to work Part 2: Is the workplace ready?

Returning to work Part 2: Is the workplace ready? 1520 1013 Commissioning HR
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Is the workplace “COVID-19 Secure”?

To limit the spread of COVID-19, it is important that people work safely. Official government guidance confirms that “Working from home remains one way to do this. However, the risk of transmission can be substantially reduced if COVID-19 secure guidelines are followed closely”

Detailed industry specific Working Safely During COVID-19 guidance is set out in one of 14 guides covering a range of different types of work available here.  The guide for “people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments” is set out in the Office Guide.

There are also some overarching key points for all business here

Each guidance is lengthy and businesses will need to digest the appropriate one for their business. A downloadable poster to display in your business to show you have followed the guidance is also available.

The Office Guide requires employers to carry out a risk assessment in line with Health and Safety Executive guidance. As a minimum, an employer should:

  • Identify what aspects of their workplace and working practices could result in the transmission of COVID-19
  • Decide how likely it is that a person would contract COVID-19 in the workplace and
  • Identify what reasonably practicable action can be taken to minimise the risks identified, recognising it is not possible to eliminate the risk of COVID-19 completely

Employers must share the results of the risk assessment with their workforce and employers with more than 50 employees are expected to publish the risk assessment on their website.

Are people who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 able to return to work?

Although ‘shielding’ paused on 1st August, clinically extremely vulnerable individuals are still at greater risk of suffering an adverse outcome if they contract COVID-19.  Therefore, the guidance is still that such individuals should work from home wherever possible. If extremely clinically vulnerable individuals cannot work from home, then they should be offered the option of the safest available on-site roles, enabling them to maintain social distancing guidelines.  It may be appropriate for clinically extremely vulnerable individuals to be offered an alternative role or adjusted working patterns temporarily. Particular attention should also be paid to people who live with clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.

Other higher-risk groups include those who:

  • Are older males
  • Have a high body mass index (BMI)
  • Have health conditions such as diabetes (these individuals and those who are pregnant or aged 70 or over are also referred to as being clinically vulnerable)
  • Are from some Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds

Employers are therefore advised to consider this in their risk assessment.

Employers should also consider those with protected characteristics, including, for example, employees who are pregnant. They are entitled to suspension on full pay if suitable roles cannot be found. Employers may also need to consider if reasonable adjustments are necessary for any disabled employees.

In our next blog, we’ll explain how employers should consult with staff before planning to return to the workplace.  

This is part 2 of a 4 part series. Please visit the ‘People’ section of the blog to discover more blogs in the series. 

How we Support

Commissioning HR specialises in transformative change and putting people at the heart of business. We are passionate about ensuring Good Work is embedded in organisations and helping South West businesses emerge as ethical employers. Contact us for advice and support on returning to the office, and other HR matters.

About the author

Commissioning HR

Deliver professional and credible HR advice, guidance and structure, for positive outcomes for employees, managers, directors, customers, stakeholders and investors across Devon and Cornwall.

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