From the 14th July 2021 the Government released the Step 4 guidance on working safely during coronavirus. The main message is that the government is no longer instructing people to work from home if they can and they are encouraging employers to plan a gradual return to the office over the summer months.
Over the past year though the way that companies are working have changed, and it is clear that many employees are looking at future hybrid models which include an element of home and office working.
Some employees have found a number of benefits to working in a hybrid model, including:
- increased productivity
- healthier work-life balance
- improved job satisfaction
- lower environmental impacts
- more time for physical activity
- saving money
- more flexibility
Although the government is encouraging people to return to workplaces, it is down to individual organisations to agree the working arrangements and whatever model is chosen, this should be discussed with their employees.
What happens if I am classed as vulnerable?
Throughout the pandemic advice from the government was for those who are classed as “clinically extremely vulnerable” should be shielding. Since the 1st April 2021 the shielding advice was paused and the government are advising clinically extremely vulnerable people, as a minimum, to follow the same guidance as everyone else. However, the government encourages those who are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they were to catch covid to think carefully about any additional precautions they may wish to continue to take.
It’s natural that those who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable might be anxious about now returning to work, so employers are encouraged to make sure everyone works safely, explaining how you’re managing the risks from COVID-19 and talking to staff about any concerns they may have.
In addition, an employer must consider making reasonable adjustments for those with disabilities.
If employees need support to work at home or in the workplace, they can also apply for Access to Work. Access to Work may provide support for the disability-related extra costs of working that are beyond standard reasonable adjustments an employer must provide.
What does my employer have to do?
Despite the removal of covid restrictions, businesses still have a legal duty to manage risks and the governments ‘Working Safely’ guidance provides advice on precautions employers can take to manage risk and support their staff and customers.
If your workplace is open, employers should:
- Complete a health and safety risk assessment that includes the risk from COVID-19
- Make sure the office space is well ventilated
- Clean desks more often
- Turn away people with COVID-19 symptoms
- Enable people to check in at your venue
- Keep employees, visitors, and contractors up to date on safety measures
- Follow government guidance
If you have concerns about your specific situation, we strongly advise you to seek support from your health and safety representative, trade union officer or an employment lawyer to get advice and find out your employment rights.