Back to work on 19th July – What will it be like?
The Prime Minister has confirmed that the burden will be on employers to decide how to manage COVID-19 risks in the workplace as the requirement to ‘work from home if you can’ lifts and we move into Step 4 of the recovery Roadmap.
View the Government's Guidance Notes here
Whilst it is unrealistic to expect all employees to be sat at their desks on Monday morning, it is likely that there will be a huge increase in those returning to the workplace… if you haven’t already.
So, what will this actually look like? If you are one of those employees who has been working from home since last March, you may not receive as much of a shock as you think because you are returning when restrictions have eased. Having said that, every employer is different and will have different measures in place. Several employers have changed the way they think and operate and allowed employees to work from home in a hybrid way and for the forseeable future, some days spent in the workplace and some days working from home, with a number of employers changing employment contracts permanently to reflect this, and others just seeing how this new working arrangement might develop.
19th July - General Guidance
Your employer should have undertaken a COVID-19 risk assessment which will assist them in implementing appropriate measures in the workplace. However, from our research into different employers’ approaches and also following a review of the latest government guidance, we estimate the following general changes:
With the legal requirement of social distancing being removed, this really depends on the size of your workplace and the number of employees at the company. If social distancing measures have not already been put in place, then it is unlikely that they will be implemented from the 19th of July. However, we do consider that naturally, individuals will be at a distance when walking round the workplace… purely out of habit of not being near many others for the last year!
We can only hope that the lovely weather we’ve experience over the last few days continues and you can keep the windows open. But, even when it is cold and raining (and let’s face it, it may well be a typical English summer!) … ventilation is to stay a priority when inside.
Another requirement that has been removed is the wearing of masks. It is unlikely that you will be wearing one in the workplace but again, this depends on the type of environment you work in. Most offices have implemented screens which reduces the need for wearing a mask. You may be asked to wear one when walking around the workplace but again, this is your employer’s discretion.
The Government has confirmed that this is essential to stopping the spread of COVID-19 and subsequently, isolation rules will still apply in the same way as they do now.
General hygiene is extremely important in stopping the spread of COVID-19. The use of anti-bacterial gel and regular hand washing is still strongly encouraged.
Ultimately, it is for your employer to decide on how they manage the risks of COVID-19 in their workplace beceause working characteristics, occupancy, buildings and infrastructure are all different depending on the sector and type of business. Employers also need to protect the interests and vulnerabilities of employees who feel traumatised about returning the workplace, for example, people who have not yet had their vaccinations (for a number of reasons including underlying medical conditions, mental health concerns or strongly-held beliefs) and look to implement ways to manage their re-engagement.
Once we receive further guidance from the Government, we will of course update you but for the time being, we would suggest you limit unnecessary contact where possible in the workplace and if you are unwell, do not attend, get tested and self-isolate if you are diagnosed with Covid-19.
If you have an issue with workplace Covid-19 health and safety compliance, please Contact Us here for an initial conversation about how to approach it.
Mani Deol, Solicitor, Employment Team
Lawson West Solicitors, Leicester