The government’s advice to work from home where possible is expected to continue until at least 21 June, when it is hoped that all social distancing restrictions will end.
If an employee cannot do their job from home, they can travel into the workplace providing it is safe to do so.
To ensure a safe workplace, employers should complete a COVID risk assessment and take steps to prevent transmission, including:
- Ensuring social distancing
- Minimising staff and visitors in the workplace
- Frequent cleaning
- One-way systems
- Hand washing and sanitising stations
- Staggered start and finish times
The restrictions are not as severe as those imposed earlier in the year.
The government’s advice before the introduction of the second lockdown was to work from home if you can. However, there is scope within the current guidance to allow some employees to continue working from their workplace and it permits those who are unable to work from home to return to work.
Whilst the virus remains prevalent, many employees will continue to feel anxious about attending their workplace, mixing with colleagues and the commute to and from work.
Employees are protected by law from detriment or dismissal if they have a reasonable belief that their workplace poses a serious and imminent risk to health and refuse to attend work as a result.
Employers should continue to be mindful of their health and safety obligations and take care to consult with individual employees to make decisions about their working arrangements depending on the particular employee’s circumstances and risk factors.
If employers are satisfied that their workplace is genuinely COVID-secure and can demonstrate that their staff are not able to carry out their normal duties effectively from home, there may come a point where they can insist that employees return to the workplace and potentially take disciplinary action if they unreasonably fail to do so. Such action would need to be taken very carefully and only in exceptional circumstances.
If homeworking is not possible, employers may consider alternatives such as using the extended furlough scheme or allowing paid or unpaid leave.
The pandemic has shown employers and employees that there are many advantages to working from home such as increased productivity, improved staff health and wellbeing and better work/life balance.
The decision about where to work is likely to be a fluid situation, with working from home, for at least part of the working week, clearly becoming the new normal for most office-based staff.
For more information and to find out how we can help you, please contact us on 0345 646 0406 or fill in our online enquiry form and a member of our Team will be in touch.