As we know the Government have announced new measures from Plan B which can be found HERE
- from Friday 10 December, face coverings will be required by law in some public indoor settings, such as theatres and cinemas (but not in hospitality settings)
- from Monday 13 December, office workers who can work from home should do so
- from 6am on Wednesday 15 December, certain businesses and events will be required by law to check the COVID status of workers and customers using the NHS COVID Pass for large events.
Working from home
Part of this guidance is that that office workers who can work from home ‘should do so’. The official guidance has not yet been updated so watch this space.
There needs to be a commonsense approach here. It isn’t saying that everyone who works in an office MUST work from home it is saying that where possible they should. This doesn’t mean that now everybody who has just returned to the office should now return to working from home, particularly if there are reasons why they can’t. It will be down to employers and employees to discuss the options. Some employers may want some staff in the office, particularly if not all of their job can be done from home and some employees may also not want to work from home for various reasons such as mental health and missing the lack of social interaction. Some employers may have employees in the office working on a rota basis to provide a happy medium and less numbers in one place at one time. You will also want to consider how large the office is and how many employees are in it at one time. If there are 100 employees in a large open plan office, this is very different to a small office with 4 people for example. If you have measures in place such as facemasks and testing with lateral flows daily, then you may feel it is as safe as possible.
This will no doubt lead to some conflict within the workplace though, as some employers will not want staff to work at home and the employees will want to work from home and vice versa. Dealing with these issues are important and it’s all about the communication and laying out the options! Employers may also need to consider those with a health issue and give them extra consideration. Although there is no guidance in place for those who have previously shielded, these individuals may be more anxious.
What needs to be in place for working from home?
Hopefully if you have returned to the office and are now moving back to homeworking, you should be able to put in place the measures you previously had but as a reminder what do you need to consider?
- Have a policy on temporary homeworking – circulate and communicate this again.
- DSE assessment – ensure each employee undertakes a display screen equipment assessment. Guidance and a template can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website HERE and HERE.
- Equipment – consider whether each employee has the equipment they need to be able to work from home. If this is a temporary measure, this could involve taking equipment home from the office, or you may want to allow them to buy their own and providing an allowance towards this or buying it for them if you think it will be more of a permanent arrangement.
- Employees should be aware that they may be able to claim tax relief of up to £6 a week to cover additional costs if they work from home and don’t receive any costs from the employer. They can check online if they can claim.
- Ensure communication is consistent and that you all stay in touch.
If your employees can’t work from home, you may want to consider:
- Reviewing your risk assessment – take a look at your current risk assessment, review and update it where possible and review the current guidance on working safely during Coronavirus.
- Reviewing your policy on wearing face coverings. These are now mandatory in most public indoor venues, and you may want to consider your policy within the workplace.
- vulnerable employees such as pregnant employees and review their individual risk assessment where required. Guidance can be found
New regulations will be in place for six weeks and will be reviewed after 3 weeks.