Furlough is expected to end in September 2021, prior to and from that date, many employers will be looking to reintegrate their workforce and strive to gradually return to how they were before the pandemic hit. Employers must determine whether a return to the workplace is feasible from an economic and safety perspective. Undoubtedly, there will be anxiety and questions surrounding this return to work, restrictions may be easing, and the vaccine is being rolled out at a better than expected pace, however Covid-19 is still present in our lives and vulnerable people especially may be wary to return to pre-covid life.
Employers should follow the up-to-date government and public health guidance applicable to their sector to ensure that everyone is fully compliant with social distancing and Covid-19 secure working practices, including physical barriers like perspex screens, hand hygiene, and cleanliness of surfaces and shared equipment. Good ventilation can help reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus. Risk assessments will need to be undertaken.
Employees should receive reasonable notice regarding returning to work, giving them time to make any necessary childcare arrangements, voice and health concerns or wellbeing issues – particularly those who are in the vulnerable category. It is advisory to have a re-induction process and it is important to keep a record of communication surrounding this. A re-induction process will help to alleviate anxiety, within this employers could integrate wellbeing training. It should also have a focus on rebuilding connections and allow employees to ask any questions.
If employees are reluctant to return, people professionals should seek to understand individual employee’s reasons as to why they are reluctant to attend and identify specific safety concerns. Concerns may range from health risks to worries about other employee’s lack of caution or issues about their commute. Employers should reassure employees that stringent safety measures are in place and could provide copies of any Coronavirus Risk Assessments to put their minds at ease. It will be an adjustment period for all involved, however, carried out correctly, it will be a positive step towards rebuilding the economy and getting people back to work.