What should your employer be doing to allow safe return to work?

Two colleagues touch elbows in their workplace

With the Scottish Government now having allowed all business premises to re-open, your employer ought to be thinking about how they can return you and your colleagues to the workplace, as appropriate.

It is necessary for your employer to conduct a Covid-19 Risk Assessment. This should be regularly reviewed and updated before you and your fellow workers return, and on an ongoing basis. The paramount consideration is the health and safety of you and your co-workers. Of course, this means that your employer should be taking full account of up-to-date Government advice. Your employer is asked to consider business needs and staff wellbeing, with home-working still a mitigation for controlling the virus.

A Risk Assessment is not a “box-ticking” exercise. It involves someone with a knowledge of your employers’ working practices carefully considering the daily operations of the business and areas where risks may arise and implementing reasonable steps to minimise those risks. Your employer cannot ensure that the spread of coronavirus is avoided. However, the Risk Assessment should make it clear that they have taken steps to consider the risks and minimise them as far as possible.

A woman cleans her workplace with sterilising fluid

Much is common sense. Here are very simple steps that your employer ought to be considering to reduce risk and allow social distancing. For example:

  1. Allowing employees to continue to work from home if this fits with business needs or organising a staggered shift pattern to allow fewer people in the work premises at any one time.
  2. Avoiding “hot desking”, i.e. sharing of desks.
  3. Avoiding the use of communal areas such as kitchens, canteens and toilets, or introducing a policy of “one at a time” for those areas.
  4. Arranging regular cleaning of communal items such as photocopiers, printers etc.
  5. Implementing one-way systems within the office.
  6. Arranging for meetings with third parties, including customers and suppliers, to be done by phone or video conference, unless a face-to-face meeting is essential.
  7. Reducing the length of meetings.
  8. Keeping doors propped open to reduce the touching of door handles etc.
  9. Keeping premises well ventilated.
  10. Requiring people to wear face coverings indoors.

If you have concerns, speak to your employer about other steps they could consider.

You and many others may be concerned and anxious about returning to workplaces and will want to know that your employer is regarding your physical and mental health as a priority. Your employer should be communicating with you and reviewing their plans as necessary.

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