Guidance to cover best practice around how to handle returning to work has been updated this week by workplace expert, Acas.
The coronavirus pandemic has seen calls to the Acas helpline increase by a third (34%) when compared to the same period in 2019. This equates to an increase of 115,000 calls.
Acas’s advice is for employers and their staff to have early discussions about any plans to return to work and try to come to an agreement. These talks can take place with trade union or employee representatives and health and safety representatives, but all staff should be kept informed of plans and be able to feed into discussions.
Discussion points include:
- when staff might return to the workplace
- how staff will travel to and from work
- how health and safety is being reviewed and managed, including sharing the latest risk assessment
- any planned adjustments to the workplace, for example additional hand washing facilities, staggering start and finish times to avoid overcrowding or floor markings to help people keep 2 metres apart
- if there might be a phased return of the workforce, for example some staff returning before others
Acas advises that wherever possible, employers should speak to staff before making a decision or putting plans in writing. This can help staff understand and feel included in decisions.
Acas’s new advice is clear that some people may not feel that they are able to return to work due to worries around catching the virus, childcare responsibilities, or they could be an extremely vulnerable person or live with someone who is. In any of these situations, an employer should listen to staff concerns. Some practical options to consider are:
- arrange for someone to work different hours temporarily to avoid peak time travel
- keep someone on furlough if they are temporarily unable to work
- offer extra car parking where possible so that people can avoid using public transport
If none of these options are possible then it may be possible to take time off as holiday or unpaid leave but an employer does not have to agree to this. If someone refuses to attend work without a valid reason then it could result in disciplinary action.
Acas is regularly updating its advice to reflect any new changes to lockdown in Great Britain. The full advice includes proposed changes to employment contracts on returning to work, staff anxious about returning to work and how to raise it as an issue.
For more advice on how to handle returning to work in a post-Covid-19 world, click here.
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