If you are an employer who has a workplace that is currently closed and you have staff that are working from home or on furlough, you might want to consider your return to work action plan.
Here at PARRS, we have created a guide for all of the things that you need to consider when planning the reopening of your workplace. From communicating your messaging to your workforce to ensuring that your working environment is safe – at PARRS, we will be on hand to help you through the process.
Deciding on the return to work strategy includes making a decision about who returns to the office and when. There are multiple ways of doing this but there are some factors that should influence your decision.
If you are in a position to do so, you could ask all of your employees to return to work. If you plan on doing this, you will need to ensure that the health and safety of your employees is a main priority. The Government have released guidance for employers, employees and self-employed workers that clearly outlines the procedures and practices that should be followed. For the full return of your workforce, you need to consider the number of employees that you have and the workspace available.
Some of your employees may be able to complete their work from home and this could be a permanent option for your business. Remote working has advanced since the COVID pandemic began and many workplaces are now choosing to offer working from home as a full-time option.
Another option that you can consider is a staggered return to work. This will allow you to manage fewer people within the office space, making social distancing easier. Creating a schedule for a staggered return to work means that you are offering your employees the option to remain at home if they don’t feel ready to return.
Social distancing must be adhered to in the workplace wherever possible. Ensuring that social distancing guidelines are maintained is important and here are a few tips that will help you as an employer:
• Use back to back or side to side working. Try and avoid face to face working.
• Reduce the number of people that each person has contact with. This could include fixed teams or partnering your employees so that each employee does not have to mix with the entire workforce.
• Use screens and barriers to keep people separated at their workstations.
• Introduce social distancing signs that encourage people to keep their distance from one another and to signal a one-way walking system around the office.
Ensuring that your workplace is clean before opening and that it remains clean is an important discussion point and may require you as an employer to take action before you let your staff back on the premises.
Please Note: An assessment for all sites and parts of the site location needs to be taken before work restarts.
Check your ventilation systems so that they do not lower ventilation levels. Most air conditioning systems will not need adjustment if they draw in a supply of fresh air.
Before anyone enters the office or workplace again, you should clean the space. Wiping down surfaces, cleaning touchpoints and ensuring that there are regular sanitation stations throughout the workplace are all vital when preparing a workspace for employees returning to work.
To prevent transmission, you need to ensure that the workplace stays clean day-to-day. Frequently cleaning work surfaces and areas, as well as any door handles or keyboards that are touched can help reduce transmission.
Place a limit on high-touch items. This can include items such as printers or whiteboards. It is recommended that you put a restriction on kettles or ensure that they are sanitized after each use.
Keep good hygiene throughout the working day. To do this, you should add hand washing signs and posters and provide multiple accessible hand sanitiser locations around the premises.
As an employer, you have a duty of care to your staff, customers and any visitor to your workplace. It is required by law that as an employer you must:
• Complete a risk assessment.
• Take reasonable steps to prevent harm.
• Do all that you reasonably can to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of people at work.
If you require more information regarding the completion of a risk assessment and managing potential risks, you can consult the HSE guidelines for further advice.
Another area that you should consider as an employer is communicating changes to your workforce.
You should, as an employer:
• Ask staff for their views
• Consider any suggestions that may arise.
• Try and reach an agreement
Employers should consult their trade union and employee representatives and they should check if there is an agreement with representatives that says they must formally consult.
Items to talk about with employee representatives or trade unions:
• The way in which health and safety are managed and reviewed. Employers should share their latest risk assessment.
• Changes that could be made to make the workplace safer.
• How employees on furlough might be changed.
Depending on the type of workplace that you operate, rules on face coverings and safety masks differ. Face coverings shouldn’t be used in replacement of managing risks.
It is not compulsory to wear face masks in offices, however, for businesses that are customer-facing, a face covering is mandatory.
Businesses that are customer facing and face coverings are required:
• Building societies
• Auction houses
• Post Offices
• Estate Agents
• Legal, professional and financial services
As an employer, you should encourage your workforce to abide by the following rules and recommendations regarding face coverings:
1. Before and after removing a face mask, you should wash your hands thoroughly using soap and water or hand sanitiser.
2. Avoid touching your face or face mask.
3. If your face covering becomes damp or you touch it, change it.
4. Change and wash your face covering daily.
Here at PARRS, we have a range of COVID protection items that you can add to your business to prevent the spread of infection within the workplace.
• Safety Glasses/Shields - can be easily worn for customer-facing employees.
• Disposable Masks - disposable and reusable face masks.
• Protective Screens - designed to create spaces between employees at desks or workstations.
• Safety Gloves - for handling items.
• Thermometers - includes contactless infrared thermometers to check the temperature of employees, customers and visitors
before they enter your premises.
• Hand/Surface sanitisers - automatic and foot-operated hand sanitiser dispensers that you can add around your workplace.