Returning to work safely

Due to lockdown because of COVID-19, employees in UK are bound to work from their homes. We still don’t know when the lockdown ends but as per the government announcement, some relaxation is offered by UK government to workers and private company employees and are allowed to return to their work safely, in case they cannot work from home.

Returning to work safely
In this article we cover:

Workplace safety & prevention strategies

  1. Wear a protective mask.
  2. Maintain social distancing with colleagues at your office.
  3. Be conscious while touching common office surfaces and wash your hands regularly.
  4. Clean the office surfaces after touching them.
  5. Sanitise your entire work place including door handles, seats, keyboards, common used surfaces etc.
  6. Don’t go to work if you are having any symptom of COVID-19. Get yourself officially tested and join the office only when the report is negative.
  7. Don’t go to work if any of your family membersshowing signs of COVID-19. Wait till your family member gets recovered - need to quarantine for at least 14 days. Get yourself officially tested too.
  8. Wear gloves in case you are using public transport for commuting. Not wearing gloves while commuting to office can increase the risk of getting virus on your hands.
  9. Don’t touch your eyes, mouth and nose as well as telephone as it is a highly infected virus and can transfer germs to the surface of any equipment or mobile as well.
  10. If you are commuting to work by using your own vehicle such as bike & car. Clean all your surfaces before sitting and touching the car interiors.
  11. In case you are suffering from any other medical problem, tell your employer immediately. Suffering from any existing medical problems such as Asthma, diabetes etc. can put you at higher risk of COVID-19.
  • Ask your employer to provide you a separate working area for work.
  • Ask your employer to limit the foot traffic near your work area.
  • Use tables, plexiglass or other barriers to maintain social distancing from your colleagues.
  • Ask your employee to change your working hours to avoid rush hours of commuting to office.
  • Use gloves while touching lift buttons.
  • Extra precautions to be taken while making coffee.

Employer’s protection responsibilities

It is the employer’s responsibility to protect the health of their staff and make them feel safe at work. Employers must take the following measuresin order to protect their workforce -

  1. Appoint a medical officer to test the temperature of employees commuting to office via thermal gun.
  2. A curriculum should be issued by employer to guide employees about Coronavirus pandemic and how to deal with it. It should be shared digitally to all employees via e-mail.
  3. A notice outside the cabin as well as office premises must be published covering the information about essential steps to deal with COVID-19.
  4. Supervise and ensure that every employee should wear a mask and maintain 2 meters distance from each other.
  5. Hand sanitizer’s or hand washing facility at entry & exit points.
  6. Risk assessment by the employer to identify whether any special action needed or not.
  7. Make a culture of saying “Namastey with folded hands” rather than doing hand shake with your colleagues.
  8. Open more ways for entry & exit to/from the office.
  9. Create one way walk through for the staff.

Government guidance on workplace health & safety

  1. Encourage your employees to work from home if it is possible. If not, they are permitted to commute to office (both key & non key persons permissible).
  2. Workforce related to children’s and nurseries are unable to work in this difficult situation till schools and childcare providers open once again.
  3. Government also announced that they have issued “shielding letters” to UK workers and warned them not to work for 12 weeks from the date of the letter because of their health condition which may make them exposed to effects of COVID-19. Government is currently having no idea that whether the shielding period will extend further or not.
  4. Many countries such as Spain, Germany, Italy or even whole of Europeare in the process of initiation of re-opening of business.
    Spain – Permitted construction workers to return to their jobs as work from home is not possible for them.
    Austria – Some of the shops are allowed to open with social distancing rules to follow
    Hongkong – Maximum civil servants are already working from 4th May
  5. Work canteens are closed in UK in order to limit or stop the spread of Coronavirus

Managing employee concerns about returning to the workplace

Employer must understand concerns of their employees who are returning to their work place and manage it by considering the following important points –

  1. They may request for flexible working hours as employee needs to take care of their families too.
  2. Creation of COVID-19 working group to guide employees about the recent developments and providing them adequate answers of their queries.
  3. Do regular communication with your team to update them with new procedures implementation, leave entitlements etc.
  4. Guidance on Job retention scheme.
  5. Make a strategy to handle employees claims after their return to office which may include flexible working hours, discrimination claims, reduction in salary and difficult decisions about redundancy
  6. Employees must be influenced by the employer to tell their concerns but make sure that employer policies of disciplinary issues, grievances, whistle blowing as well as capability concerns should be followed properly.
  7. Employer must plan ahead for future and share the same with their staff to maintain the employee trust.
  8. Employer must follow all the statutory and contractual obligations in relation to employees and manage their workforcein such a way so that employees should adopt this new environment as early as possible.

It is important for both the employer and the employees to ensure government guidelines are followed strictly for everyone’s safety and to avoid a second spark of the deadly virus. More information on working safely during Coronavirus can be found here.

Stay safe and protect the NHS.

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About the author
Blog Author

Jigisha Gajjar
I have joined DNS as an HR administrator in oct 2018, CIMA level 1 and studying AAT. I have 10 years of work experience in finance, customer service and office administration. I love talking to people and my role fits perfectly in this. Its great to see new faces and help them settle in the team when they first join. I am still learning and bringing in changes and new ideas that can help DNS.


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