Going to the workplace during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Returning to the workplace

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Most workplaces have reopened since the end of coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions. But some organisations may only now be considering whether staff should return to the workplace.

As an employer, you should consider:

  • whether it's appropriate to bring staff back to the workplace who have not returned yet
  • flexible working arrangements
  • reasonable adjustments
  • how to keep the workplace safe
  • reviewing health and safety policies and procedures
  • when staff should come back to work after they've had COVID-19, including any self-isolation and testing procedures you might want to put in place

You must also consider if COVID-19 is relevant and take it into account when deciding on 'reasonable adjustments' for disabled employees.

Find out more about reasonable adjustments

Keeping the workplace safe

Employers have legal obligations for the health, safety and wellbeing of people at work.

There are a number of things an employer should consider to:

  • help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19
  • make work as safe as possible for everyone

To keep the workplace safe, employers and staff should follow the government guidance for:

What employers must do

By law, employers have a 'duty of care' for staff, customers and anyone else who visits the workplace.

Employers also have responsibilities for health, safety and wellbeing when staff are working remotely, for example working from home.

Employers must:

  • do all they reasonably can to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of people at work
  • complete a risk assessment, and take reasonable steps to prevent harm
  • consider COVID-19 as part of their general health and safety risk assessment
  • consult staff, and any trade union or employee representatives, on any decisions that involve health and safety

Employers must also consider how to protect staff who are at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19 as part of their health and safety risk assessment.

Find out more from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on:

What employers should consider

Employers should consider policies and rules to keep their workplace safe. This is part of their legal obligation for the health, safety and wellbeing of staff.

Cleaning and ventilation

Employers should follow government guidance on hygiene and cleaning the workplace:

Employers must also make sure there is adequate ventilation (air flow) in enclosed areas of their workplace.

Find out more about ventilation in the workplace from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

Vaccinations

There's no law that says people must have the COVID-19 vaccine but employers should support staff in getting it.

Some employers might want to agree a vaccine policy for their organisation.

Find out more about getting the COVID-19 vaccine and supporting staff

Other things to consider to keep the workplace safe

There are a number of other things employers can consider to help keep the workplace safe.

Face coverings and masks

There is no legal requirement to wear a face mask or covering anywhere in England, Scotland or Wales.

Some employers might still want to have a workplace policy for face coverings, or some staff might still want to wear them. Employers should talk with staff and consider what their organisation's policy is.

Read the government guidance for:

Social distancing at work

Social distancing means keeping people apart to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Employers should still consider what their policy is on social distancing, particularly if they have staff at high risk from COVID-19.

Other ways of keeping people safe might include:

  • working side by side instead of face to face
  • using screens or barriers to separate people

Flexible working

The pandemic has given people experience of working in lots of different ways. Talking to staff about their experiences can help you consider:

  • whether staff should return to the workplace
  • how the workplace should be used

You could consider flexible working arrangements, for example working from home and hybrid working.

Find out more about flexible working

If someone at work has COVID-19

If someone finds out they've tested positive or has COVID-19 symptoms when they're at their workplace, they should tell their employer.

'Self-isolating' (staying at home) is no longer a legal requirement. But if someone has COVID-19 symptoms or has tested positive, they should follow the public health advice in England, Scotland or Wales and any policy their organisation has in place.

Follow the government guidance for:

Staff may be concerned that they've worked with someone with COVID-19. Employers can reassure them by making clear what measures they've taken to keep the workplace safe.

Staff should speak to their employer if they have any concerns or are unsure about whether they should self-isolate.

Acas support for employers

An Acas adviser can talk you through:

  • your options for returning to the workplace safely
  • the steps in the process and a flowchart with links to further resources
  • what's a legal requirement and what's good practice
  • what support is available for your staff

To arrange an appointment, you can:

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Please do not include any personal information, for example email address or phone number. Unfortunately we cannot respond to individual requests for information. If you need help, contact our helpline on 0300 123 1100