A few employers have already asked staff to return to the workplace as they consider their business works more effectively with people in the office. The change in government guidance, from 1 August in respect of office workers may be the first time that many employees in the travel industry will return to their desks in the office. Below I answer some common questions;
What does the government guidance say?
Prior to the 4 July, the guidance was simple – work from home if you can.
From 4 to 31 July, the emphasis changed; people should work from home if they can, but employers should decide, in consultation with their employees, whether it is viable from them to continue working from home.
From 1 August, the recommendation that people who can work from home should continue to do so will disappear and it will be for employers to decide how staff can work safely, with working from home just one option for doing so.
For people in England who are clinically extremely vulnerable the position also changes on 1 August. They can go to work as long as they are able to maintain social distancing as much as possible and their workplace is COVID secure. However, if they can work from home, they should continue to do so.
What do employers need to do before they allow staff back?
Employers must undertake a COVID—19 risk assessment in compliance with the appropriate government guidance for their type of workplace, focusing on social distancing and cleaning/hygiene arrangements. Staff should be consulted on the risk assessment, before anyone returns to the workplace. Employers have a legal duty to provide a safe working environment.
Do we have to bring staff back from 1 August?
This will be for employers to decide! Current working from home arrangements may or may not be working. Many employers may decide for a variety of reasons to continue with their current arrangements, and their staff will continue to work from home. There may be some employees who are experiencing difficulties with home working, and in those cases, employers should consider permitting them back to the workplace if needed. If staff are working from home on a longer term basis, employers should ensure that home working risk assessments are carried out.
Some employers may also choose to open up their offices on a gradual or voluntary basis, this is for employers to decide as to what works best for them.
Can employers insist on staff returning to the workplace from August 1?
As the government guidance will change from August, so long as the employer can provide a safe working environment, an employer can require its staff to return to the workplace, even if the employee can work effectively from home.
If you would like any advice on getting your staff back to work or on any other employment law issue please contact;
0113 258 0033