Updated guidance from the CIPD sets out advice for employers during the pandemic. It stresses that businesses must keep up to date with government and public health advice. Basic hygiene protection measures must remain in place to help prevent the infection’s spread, including:
Make sure workplaces are clean and hygienic.
Promote regular and thorough hand-washing by everyone.
Provide all employees with an alcohol-based hand rub.
Encourage people to use and bin tissues.
Implement the (government) Working Safely During Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance.
The guidance highlights that the government has expanded its COVID-19 testing framework. In England, the government is keen to increase the availability of rapid workplace testing and has widened testing availability, to everyone in England without COVID symptoms who can now access lateral flow tests twice a week.
In terms of a return to work the CIPD continues to urge employers to ensure they can meet three key tests before bringing staff back to a workplace if they can't work from home:
Is it essential? Employers should engage with their people to understand if returning to the workplace is essential for productivity or wellbeing. If a return is essential, the employer should give clear guidance. Where possible, in keeping with the latest government advice, the employer should continue to support working from home - in the short term while significant health risks and legitimate concerns for safety remain, and in the longer term as part of more flexible ways of working for the future.
Is it sufficiently safe? Employers have a duty of care to identify and manage risks to ensure that the workplace is sufficiently safe to return to. This could include reconfiguring workspaces and common areas to allow appropriate social distancing, possible changes to working hours, and increased workplace cleaning and sanitation measures.
Is it mutually agreed? Our research found that four in ten people are anxious about returning to work. It’s vital that there is a clear dialogue between employers and employees so concerns can be raised and individual needs and worries taken into account. To manage some of these issues, there will need to be flexibility on both sides to accommodate different working times or schedules.
Government guidance states that employers should not force anyone into an unsafe workplace. Where working from home is not possible, employers should make every possible effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government and carry out a thorough COVID-19 risk assessment.
The CIPD guidance, which also includes sections on self-isolation, shielding, and Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), is available in full here.
CIPD April 2021