Considerations following the return to work instruction

The guidance contains priority actions to take to protect staff and customers, as well as detailed sections on risk, who should attend work, ventilation, reducing contact for workers, reducing risk for customers, visitors and contractors, cleaning the workplace, personal protective equipment (PPE) and face coverings, workforce management and tests and vaccinations.

The overall gist of the guidance is that there is a very high degree of responsibility on employers to care for employees and customers during the pandemic. The guidance suggests that many of the previous precautions should continue; despite the voluntary language used, there are numerous reminders of how employers’ normal legal obligations include the health and safety risk of COVID.

The advice encourages updated health and safety risk assessments that include COVID-19 risks, more regular cleaning of surfaces and hand sanitiser provision. Employers should also mitigate risk by reducing the number of people employees and workers come into contact with. The UK Government suggestions reflect previous CIPD advice including:

  • Reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’
  • ‘Cohorting’ (so each person works with only a few others)
  • Use of face coverings (in line with latest advice)
  • Using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
  • Using back-to-back or side-to-side working, instead of face-to-face
  • Assigning workstations to an individual or if desk sharing is necessary, clean them between each user.

A rarely publicised aspect of the guidance is that businesses are encouraged to turn away people with COVID-19 symptoms. This will be difficult for employers to determine as the initial symptoms of a cold and COVID-19 may be similar. It remains an offence to allow a person who should be self-isolating to come to work.

For more information, or assistance on implementation contact [email protected] or call us on 01926674875