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    Five things companies need to consider before employees return to the workplace

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    by Kate Palmer, Associate Director of Advisory at Peninsula

    Earlier this week, the UK Government released a roadmap for easing lockdown provisions in England, including instructing workers to go back to work if they cannot feasibly work from home and their workplace is open. It’s important to note, that this does not mean that everything suddenly returns to normal, and there are key areas that employers should consider before permitting their staff to return. Here are five:

    1. Commuting to work
      In order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the roadmap instructs all workers to avoid the use of public transport and instead travel via car, bicycle or walking. To encourage this, employers could work on expanding car parking facilities or bike storage areas. If staff are likely to need to use public transport, employers could also consider staggering working hours and shifts to avoid them travelling at peak times.
    2. Staff mental health
      The coronavirus situation has been a highly stressful period for everyone, and individuals will have responded to it in different ways. Employers must keep an eye on the mental health of their employees by maintaining open levels of communication with them through regular one-to-ones, social distancing must be followed, and these can be done remotely. Staff should also be referred to any additional counselling services the company offers, such as an Employee Assistance Programme, if necessary.
    3. Childcare commitments
      Currently, it is expected that schools are to remain shut until June and even then will only open on a phased return basis. As a result, some employees may have child caring issues if they are asked to return to work and may, therefore, need further support from their employer in this regard. Employers should consider if working parents can feasibly work from home and, if not, whether changing their working hours may help them to facilitate childcare. In this situation, it is crucial to maintain communication with staff and work with them to find a solution.
    4. Employee safety
      Employers should ensure that the workplace is set up to keep their staff safe in line with the latest government guidance. This includes implementing measures to maintain social distancing alongside higher levels of cleaning and hygiene. Guidance continues to change, so employers must keep up to date with all commentary coming from the government.
    5. ‘Shielding’ workers
      Government guidance advises those deemed most at risk from the coronavirus to shield, and this will likely be the case for some time. To this end, it will be important not to put employees in this position at risk by expecting their premature to return to work. Instead, alternatives should be considered, such as them working from home or being furloughed if the Job Retention Scheme is still an option for the company in the coming months.
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