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Returning to the Workplace

The CIPD has revised its guidance on planning an ongoing return to the workplace as lockdown restrictions ease.

It is stressed that employers must plan and implement any return to the workplace in a way that cares for their people and safeguards their health and wellbeing. At the heart of any plans, says the guidance, there should be a commitment to support flexible, remote and hybrid working where possible.


The CIPD’s Flex From 1st campaign aims to make access to flexible working arrangements more equal. The campaign is encouraging employers to support flexible working for all and the right to request flexible working from day-one of employment. And the CIPD are calling for a change to UK law to make flexible working requests a day-one right for all employees.

As part of this campaign, the CIPD is calling on employers to build upon the period of remote working and to adapt and learn to make hybrid working a success, rather than rushing people back to their workplace when the risks of COVID-19 subside.


It is noted that once the Government advice to work from home ends employers must take an individualised approach to consider the physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of the workforce, as well as monitoring ongoing government guidance. Even with falling COVID cases, employers have a duty of care to ensure that the workplace is sufficiently safe to return to, following the latest Government guidance. This may involve continued social distancing measures, potentially reconfiguring workspaces and common areas, possible changes to working hours to reduce risk of exposure, improved ventilation and increased workplace cleaning and sanitation measures. Employers should also listen to any concerns employees may have around travelling to the workplace.

It is stressed that until Government guidance changes employers should support their people to continue to work from home wherever possible.

There will be a period of planning and managing a return to the workplace when the focus will primarily be on health and safety and compliance with COVID-secure guidelines.

However, employers should also start considering their longer-term plans with regards to implementing more flexibility in working arrangements.

Factors that must be considered when thinking about short-term plans for returning to the workplace include:

  • size and nature of the workplace

  • the number of vulnerable staff or those who live with vulnerable people

  • caring responsibilities

  • public transport dependency

  • local and wider outbreaks.

The CIPD guidance also notes that an employer’s guiding principle should be to safeguard the health and wellbeing of their people. It is important that businesses engage with their people to understand how they feel about the return to the workplace.

It goes on to cover:

  • risk assessments

  • health and safety measures

  • testing and vaccination

  • role of line managers

  • supporting furloughed workers

  • wellbeing

  • longer-term planning: looking to the future

  • hybrid working

  • end of the furlough scheme

  • international business

  • potential conflict

  • equality, inclusion and fairness

  • bereavement

  • holiday

  • communication

  • role of line managers.

Communication with the workforce is highlighted as being crucial when it comes to keeping employees informed about what a business is doing. The full guidance is available here.

CIPD June 2021


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