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Now that most Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted and the government is no longer instructing everyone in England to work from home, it’s important that as an employer you look to reintroduce staff, back into the workplace.

For staff returning to the workplace there is a need to ensure it is done gradually, carefully and safely. Some staff may still be anxious or cautious and for those who are clinically vulnerable, it may be sensible to retain some measures – face masks, other PPE, social distancing, ventilation, office layout and/or hybrid working.

Working safely

Conducting thorough risk assessments and following the government’s Working safely during coronavirus guidance is a great first step. Plus, consulting staff individually who may be struggling, will also help to allay their fears. And depending on the type of business you operate, it may be necessary to recruit, train or retrain staff whilst following sector-specific guidance, particularly if staff have been furloughed or if their role involves close contact with the public.

Vaccinations and pinging

There is no doubt that the vaccination programme rollout has been impressive, but you need to remember that some employees may not have wanted to have the vaccine and others may not be happy to advise you of their current vaccination status. And whilst being double vaccinated does not eliminate infection and transmission completely, you will need to plan to ensure employee wellbeing, continuity and minimise levels of disruption where and when you can.

From 16 August, fully vaccinated individuals will no longer need to self-isolate following close contact with a positive case, but you might want to think about ways in which you can implement internal contact tracing and maintain a remote working option in these circumstances. Remember, until 30 September, there is a legal requirement to self-isolate after a positive test or notification from NHS Test and Trace with a fixed penalty notice of up to £10,000 if you knowingly allow a self-isolating worker into your workplace.

Prevent and protect

As an employer, you have a duty to not expose your employees to unreasonable risk. Hospitality, transport and retail workers may still be worried and anyone who must commute on public transport, so retaining some preventative measures and or finding alternative solutions might be prudent.

Finally, you might find that after 18 months of furlough, working from home etc., there is uneasiness and perhaps even conflict among employees as they start to return to the workplace. You need to be prepared to listen, understand and try to put their minds at ease and where you can start to rebuild or reshape an inclusive, engaging and responsive culture, that will certainly help.

The future

We have no idea what will happen next. Further lockdowns or restrictions might be on the cards. But what is becoming essential is the importance of planning, so you are ready to move quickly and make whatever changes are necessary. By being proactive, you will be able to ensure the continued success of your business and the happiness and wellbeing of your workforce.

How can we help?

At ActifHR we can assist with Covid Risk Assessments, Remote Working Policies and advising your business to ensure this process is as smooth as possible. Contact caroline.robertson@actifhr.co.uk today for professional HR advice and support.