Posted on: 03/07/2020
COVID-19 has impacted heavily on the economy and affected many businesses. But now that lockdown is easing, businesses are starting to re-open and people are returning to work. During this time, there are many factors that businesses need to consider. People will be returning from furlough or flexible and remote working, and businesses will still have to phase people back into the offices to maintain their safety. There are also considerations that need to be taken for employees who had contracted COVID-19 that are returning to work.
Employers first and foremost need to have up-to-date health and safety measures, policies and procedures in place before employees start returning to work. Ensuring that all employees are aware and have read these new or updated procedures will aid in helping employees remain safe during these uncertain times.
Employers should ensure that everyone in their business is aware of the symptoms of COVID-19 and that everyone is clear on the actions they need to take if they contract it. This includes reporting illness, their sick pay entitlements, and any additional requirements. Employers will also need to consider how to enforce social distancing rules in their place of work, including within rest areas. The current Government guidance emphasises varying shift rotations, avoiding peak travel times and minimising face-to-face contact.
It’s important to establish workplace health and safety processes that incorporate Government guidance on cleanliness to prevent the spread of any infections. The workplace should have the most up-to-date equipment to manage cleanliness and have easily accessible hand washing amenities that are fully equipped with soap, water and drying facilities. If possible, hand sanitiser and tissues should also be available at employees’ workstations. Employers will still need to remain aware of colleagues who would be classified as vulnerable or more at risk to ensure appropriate action is taken for their safety.
Most people who contract COVID-19 will recover with no long-term health implications, and therefore will not require any workplace adjustments. However, some people will require additional support and businesses may need to implement additional measures into their return to work plans.
Of those that contract COVID-19, 29% develop some level of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). A third of people who are severely affected by ARDS never fully return to work. Employers must devise a personalised return to work plan that provides flexibility for employees in the structure and timing of their working day. This is to ensure that all employees can work to their full capacity and adjust to a new post-COVID environment.
After contracting COVID-19, employees may be left with a prolonged sense of lethargy, which can take some time to return to normal. This could impact their ability to meet their full-time work commitments. To assist these employees, employers should consider carrying out health assessments before employees return to work to help with making workplace adjustments. Adjusting the working day, hours, or workload into a gradual return for employers could also help those who are able to work, just not at the same capacity. Supporting remote and flexible working options may also help with relieving stress and can help with post-infection fatigue.
Upon returning to work, employers should set clear expectations with their employees and encourage honest conversations about their work abilities. It is important to give employees time to acclimatise and adjust to returning to work. The most important thing is ensuring an easy line of communication between employers and employees that allows employees to discuss their concerns about their safety.
Businesses looking for more information, including support to help minimise the impact of COVID-19 on their business, returning to work, and trading standards can visit Hertfordshire Growth Hub’s dedicated COVID-19 Business Resource page. The page has a wealth of resources to help businesses struggling due to the impact of COVID-19, as well as the latest news, guidance and resources to support them during this time. Businesses can also register on the Hertfordshire Growth Hub website, and gain immediate access to a wealth of resources, tools, templates and guidance in the Knowledge Bank. There’s also a host of funding and grant opportunities which can be explored in the Marketplace. Businesses can register to attend exclusive Hertfordshire events, webinars and seminars on a range of topics, including targeted Ask the Expert Sessions designed to help businesses with the impact of COVID-19.
At Exemplas we’re experts in providing SMEs with the tools and advice they need in order to excel and grow as a business. We ensure we stay up to date with the latest techniques and strategies to help SMEs develop and upskill. Advisory support is at the heart of what we do, and our knowledge becomes an SME’s advantage within the industry. We deliver a number of key public sector contracts, including Enterprise Europe Network in the East of England and the Hertfordshire Growth Hub. These projects are designed to aid businesses with developing strategies for growth, boost productivity and innovation.