Residential property
18 May 2020 News

Working life after lockdown

As lockdown relaxation measures slowly come in to view, some employers are considering how to implement a return to work when the time comes. Further guidance will be needed from the Government on what a safe return to work will look like (face masks and other PPE, distancing arrangements, use of the NHS app, staggered shift times, testing, repurposed office spaces and many other measures are all under discussion). Meantime, we’d encourage employers to bear the following in mind:

- Numerous policies are likely to require revision including:
      - Health and safety
      - Data protection (in relation to testing and use of test results)
      - Pay, benefits and incentives (pay rises or freezes, bonuses and other enhancements are likely to require review)
      - Travel (for business and pleasure, including any new self-quarantine requirements)
      - Sickness (to take account of any new requirements to report Covid-19 symptoms and to self-isolate)

- Flexible working requests are likely to be more common following a prolonged period of home and remote working particularly as for many, caring, home schooling and other responsibilities may well be continuing. These requests may be overtaken if right to work from home legislation is introduced, which is currently under consideration by the Government.

- There is an increased risk of whistleblowing claims if employees feel their employers are placing them at risk. HR and other managers need to be trained in what may amount to a protected disclosure and whistleblowing policies should be reviewed.

- It’s likely that updated risk assessments will need to be carried out and the role and duties of health and safety officers and first aiders, reviewed.

- The terms of your Employers Liability Insurance should be checked. Ordinarily it covers employer’s liability for injuries or diseases suffered by their employees. Are Covid-19 related claims covered? How far does it extend? If an employee contracts Covid-19 as a result of a breach of an employer’s duty and then passes it on to their immediately family, would that claim be met under the policy?

- Those considered ‘vulnerable’ and those who have contracted and been hospitalised with Covid-19 may well be considered disabled within the terms of the Equality Act 2010, and as such, employers have additional obligations towards them.

- An employer’s duty to take reasonable care for the safety of their employees extends to mental health too. This will undoubtedly give rise to additional considerations for employers, both in relation to managing a safe return to work and also having an understanding of what impact the pandemic has had on members of staff mental wellbeing more generally.

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