With lockdown restrictions being eased and the reopening of a number of different types of business from mid-May, ACAS has published 5 top tips for employers to plan for the return to work.

These are summarised below:

  1. Make sure the workplace is Covid secure – following Government’s Work Safety Guidelines for your particular industry, completing risk assessments and involving staff on key decisions around workplace safety.
  2. Plan ahead with staffing – this includes consideration being given to how to reintegrate furloughed staff, how to ensure safety in terms of numbers (staggering staff times, altering work patterns etc).
  3. Engage with your staff about plans with a view to assessing and addressing concerns and any potential desire to alter work practices/patterns.
  4. Think about the health and well-being of the staff – be sure to know what the signs of mental health may be, check on staff, remember everyone is different and may have been affected differently.
  5. Remember employment rights – this includes not overlooking increases to National Minimum or Living Wage, whether there are holiday accruals or carry-overs, whether there are reasonable adjustments for disabled employees or suchlike.

The five steps are obviously relatively simple but nonetheless essential. Particularly topical is whether the return to the workplace will resemble “life before Covid” or whether there is a demand or a desire on the part of the business to look at altering working patterns altogether. Is working from home the future or is a so-called hybrid arrangement the way forward? These type of changes are fundamental and require planning ahead and will involve consultation with staff. If implemented, it is likely to lead to the introduction of a flexible working and/or home working policies.

If your business is contemplating going down this route, consider introducing changes on a trial basis initially lest we enter further restrictions or it transpires the proposals are not conducive after all to the business needs. Any such changes will need to compliment the statutory flexible working regime and flexibility is the operative word. Ensure policies are clear and expectations are communicated. Consideration needs to be given to the ramifications of such changes and policies, including the health and safety of employees working remotely, data protection and confidentiality, employee monitoring/surveillance, what expenses will be paid, insurance, provision of equipment. Policies around vaccinations, self-isolation and testing will also feature in any return to work strategies.

Where varied arrangements are agreed with individuals then these should be recorded as express variations to terms and conditions either temporary or permanent. For many businesses and workers this perhaps presents a unique opportunity for potentially very positive change and with the correct approach, clear communication, consultation and engagement, could yet herald the start of a healthier, happier and more productive workplace for all.

At Ellisons our specialist Employment Law Solicitors are able to offer you prompt and practical advice to help you resolve the issues as quickly as possible and on the right terms. Contact the Ellisons’ specialist Employment Law Solicitors today on 01473 556900 or email us at enquiries@ellisonssolicitors.com.