Schools are currently being expected to reopen to all students in September to start the new school year. The importance of face to face learning has been made a top priority for the government and some important decisions are being made on how we keep all pupils and teachers safe. This news may be a relief for most who have had to take on home learning and entertaining their children during lockdown. With childcare taken care of, we are expecting a number of our clients to start the plan of bringing all staff back into the workplace. The summer holidays have proven difficult with no summer camps, schools or activities to look after them whilst you work. This may have meant an extra expenditure on childcare, or even taking time off to look after them unpaid or using valuable holiday entitlement. It is also important to note the Job Retention Scheme (furlough) is shortly coming to an end (31st October) and therefore employees will either be reintroduced back into the workplace or made redundant. The festive period is also an important season to factor into the company future plans. It is usually a very busy time for most and as we edge closer you may want to retain current staff on shorter hours than to dismiss and rehire new employees again in a few months.
The most important element of reintroducing employees back is to carry out a thorough risk assessment. As an employer, you’re required by law, under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, protect your employees, and others, from harm.
This includes taking reasonable steps to protect your workers and others from coronavirus. A COVID-19 risk assessment will include identifying what work activity or situations might cause transmission of the virus, who could be at risk, how likely it is that someone could be exposed, and the action taken to remove the activity or situation, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk.
Some people might be anxious about safety and returning to the workplace. We would strongly recommend that you consult with your employees/colleagues in the steps you are taking to manage the risk of coronavirus in your workplace by explaining the changes you are planning to make to be able to work safely, make sure the changes will work and ask for their ideas, and reassure them on how you will continue to operate your business safely when returning to work.
Re-inducting furloughed or ‘working from home’ staff
This may be dependant on how long the employee has been away from the workspace, but you can pick and choose from the following points.
- A one to one return to work/office meeting. This can include expectations, shift patterns, personal circumstances, and any extra support the employee may need
- Training and an introduction into any new procedures that may have been missed
- A health and safety recap and personal risk assessment
How will current continued staff react?
Employees that have continued to work normally may feel separated from those who have been furloughed or asked to work from home. This divide could cause a rift and uneasiness in the office so you need to incorporate some team building into the reintroduction of staff to build relationships back up again. If you haven’t already, start up a WhatsApp group to keep employees communicating with each other. It is a free tool which can help ease the transition from long distance working relationships to a close one. Another option is to redistribute teams with different people to create a better bond, this can even be done by reorganising stations, so employees are sitting next to different people when they return.
It is important to remember that times have changed and we need to get used to the ‘new normal’ if you are having trouble adapting and unsure what needs to be done to support your staff in their transition please give is a call on 01206 700 690 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
A contribution by Hayley Cornwell