As an employer, you have a legal duty to protect workers from harm; and now that shielding has been paused everywhere in the UK it is vital that the risk to workers who are classed as particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 is carefully considered and controls are put in place to reduce that risk.
People in high-risk categories should have received a letter confirming this or have been told directly by their GP or hospital clinician. See the full updated list.
Steps to support and reassure any employees who are living with someone who is clinically vulnerable, have no childcare, or rely on public transport, must also be included in your plans.
The government is urging employers to take socially responsible decisions, listen to staff concerns and agree practical agreements about working arrangements. It has also been emphasised that it is vital employers engage with workers to ensure they feel safe returning to work, and that employers must not force anyone into an unsafe workplace.
Here, we cover the key elements for a safe return to work for employees who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable.
Limit exposure at work
The advice for clinically extremely vulnerable individuals is that they should carry on working from home wherever possible but can return to the workplace as long as it is Covid-19 Secure.
If you can’t accommodate homeworking options, you should offer the option of the safest available on-site roles, enabling staff to maintain social distancing guidelines. This may also include temporarily allowing them to take up an alternative role or adjusting working patterns.
Other strategies for workplaces include:
- Encouraging good hygiene and hand-washing practices.
- Practicing social distancing by advising employees to interact while remaining six feet apart.
- Regularly cleaning and sanitising all spaces, especially for highly used areas such as door handles, keyboards, and phones.
- Separating sick employees and sending them home
Keep listening and be flexible
Be open to any requests from your employees, such as working from home or offering extra car parking so that people can avoid using public transport. A willingness to listen and discuss concerns will provide assurance that you are doing everything possible, now and in the future; this is especially important when it is uncertain how long the situation may continue and will go a long way to reassuring your workforce.
You should keep in mind that clinically extremely vulnerable individuals may be advised to shield again if transmission levels increase, so it is important for both parties to remain as flexible as possible with arrangements.
Stay up-to-date with recommendations
The coronavirus outbreak is a rapidly developing situation and the most up-to-date information for people in the UK can be found on the NHS website. The government’s working safely during coronavirus guidance is regularly updated and now includes guidance on protecting people who are at higher risk and states that these people should carry on working from home wherever possible.
It is important to stay informed with advice as the situation continues to evolve and think about further steps you could take to reassure and communicate with your employees. For example, an employee-led group or forum would be a good way to discuss the measures that can be adopted. As a minimum, you should provide a point of contact for employees so they can discuss concerns.
You should also continue to consider how to protect the mental health of your employees and provide them with guidance on how they can get support and when to escalate concerns.
Above all, before making any decisions about your employees during Covid-19, keep reviewing if it is essential, safe, and mutually agreed.
Read more on how to navigate this complex and shifting environment with a focus on embracing it as an opportunity to become better, stronger, more efficient and effective than ever before, and get information on Absolute Quality’s COVID-19 flexible support programme. You can also register your interest to attend a ‘Lockdown Exit Strategy – Getting Your Team Back into Business’ webinar, which gives practical advice and guidance for any business owner and employer returning to work after lockdown.
Learn more about how the Rubik’s cube approach will help you to manage your business, protect and manage risks whilst optimising opportunities and developing your people, relationships, and reputation.