When Scotland moved to below level zero on 9th August most of the COVID restrictions were lifted, including physical distancing and limits on gatherings. However, the Scottish Government has recommended a gradual approach to returning to offices.
Over the coming weeks, employers should take time to assess what measures need to be taken to protect their staff, clients/customers, and any other persons with whom they are likely to come into contact with in the course of their business. There is no ‘one size fits all’ set of rules to apply as varying factors including size of business, work premises, and nature of services provided all differ from business to business. What can employers expect and how should they prepare?
Preparing to return to the office:
A key consideration for an employer is to take reasonable care to ensure the safety of their employees. Each employee’s circumstances will differ and not all will be comfortable with an immediate return to the workplace. Therefore, reasonable flexibility and communication is necessary to ensure that all employees are adequately looked after.
Some areas that employers should continue to be conscious of are: 1) employee apprehension and worry about the virus. This could be as a result of their own health or their family’s health; 2) parents and those with dependents. Across the country, businesses and groups are tackling the restrictions differently and while restrictions are lifting, different approaches are being taken on how to move forward. It is recommended that employers are prepared for those with dependents to require extra flexibility and assistance; and 3) considering ways in which employee and worker morale can be boosted. The virus and lockdown has impacted on many – being proactive in talking to staff to discuss concerns will assist with moving forward.
Assessing the risk and preventing the spread:
Despite a return to the workplace, this does not necessarily mean a return to normal business practices. Employers should look to ease employees back into the workplace (especially in larger businesses) and monitor the effectiveness of their measures regularly. Apart from continuing to follow government guidelines on social distancing (where relevant), mask wearing, and hand sanitiser availability, employers should consider their own company specific measures. For example, limiting the number of people in the workplace on any given day, encouraging employees and workers to be mindful of their colleagues needs, and providing customers and clients with information on any measures that will affect them.