Thanks to those who joined the first part of our two part webinar series looking at the return to work. 

We have attached a recording of the session, the slides and also the key points covered, we hope you find these useful and welcome any follow up questions. 

The second in this series will be taking place next week, following the new government guidance, please do look out for an invite next week.

SUIT UP Webinar - Recording >

SUIT UP Webinar - Presentation slides >

Top take-aways

  • The government instruction to stay at home was at least simple, the return to work will be a lot more complex
  • Homeworking is likely to be the norm for the foreseeable future for all office based workers
Many employees will be concerned about safety, businesses need to be sophisticated and proactive in their approach to managing this and getting them back into the workplace
  • Provided appropriate health and safety arrangements, and workplace is compliant with Government guidance, there is in theory no issue but in practice employers will need to be more sophisticated especially where consumer facing or have a public profile for PR reasons – cf Sports Direct
  • Need effective communications, risk assessments, consultation and dialogue with employees, PPE where appropriate and ongoing dialogue with employees to manage issues as they arise
  • Should avoid using disciplinary process until absolutely necessary to compel employees to return to work
  • Whistleblowing legislation: employees who raise specific health and safety concerns are likely to have made a protected disclosure and be protected
  • Damages for unfair dismissal for whistleblowing or health and safety related reasons are uncapped and not subject to usual 2 year qualification period
  • Clear communication is vital – with employees, clients and customers, unions, and other stakeholders, and media to anticipate PR issues
  • Likely to continue home working for some time – this means businesses need to shift from the immediate priorities of homeworking such as provision of IT kit to longer term management of information security, health and safety, home working practices etc
Businesses will need to plan carefully
  • Return from furlough - Chancellor's policy likely to be to encourage people off the scheme from July
  • Many employers will need employees to return on a staggered basis, so consider how you select who returns
  • Normal selection processes can't apply, so the choice of who returns should be linked to roles they perform
  • Some may not be able to return soon for safety reasons
  • If nothing else it may be that a random selection process is required
  • There is unlikely to be return to business as usual – longer term structural change may be needed
  • Seek to avoid unfair dismissal where redundancies are on the cards, and be mindful of the timing of the consultation process (in particular where the collective redundancy obligations apply)
  • Employees may not find it easy to accommodate changes to working arrangements, and some changes may require changes to terms and conditions with employees
  • Be mindful of the risk of discrimination claims – for example consider the need to make reasonable adjustments to disabled employees
  • Important to involve employees and where necessary trades unions in discussions about the return to work
Health and Safety is now a primary concern for all businesses, need to make sure risk assessments are in place
  • Employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of their employees and others affected by their business.
  • This crisis has brought H&S to front of mind for everyone, where once it was perceived as only a major concern for certain sectors
  • The basic principles need to be followed
  • Where businesses have gone straight to action plans, they may have missed steps, like written risk assessments
  • Unions are calling for companies to publish those assessments
  • Important to involve staff in preparations for the return to work, staff know the nuts and bolts details
  • Consultation is key – achieves buy in but also enhances compliance and effectiveness
  • What is reasonably practicable will be measured against government guidance, including from PHE and HSE
  • Make reference to trade bodies, businesses need to keep up to date with developments
  • Rules are no longer same across the whole UK, so must be mindful of that
  • Workplaces will look very different – there will be a new normal
  • Currently no real Government guidance on PPE for the general public but face coverings are likely to become commonplace
  • HSE are considering range of actions from guidance to enforcement
  • Work that can be done at home will likely be the last to return and measures are likely to remain in place for some time
It is important employees feel safe and trust their employers to do the right thing
  • The technology tools, apps and measures that employers may use are subject to strict rules around data protection
  • Safety cannot come at the cost of privacy rights
  • UK companies will be encouraged to use a number of such tools
  • Guidance from the information commissioner will be helpful as not necessarily clear how and when these tools may be used
How Germany returns back to work – a model for UK?
  • Step by step approach while monitoring infection rates
  • Risk assessment with individual solutions depending on the design of the respective working place
  • Keep employees informed about the overall concept to improve acceptance (e.g. in wearing mouth and nose covers)
South Korea – global best practice?
  • No major lockdown due to rapid testing, tracing and isolation method. As of 6 May, South Korea now coming out of lockdown altogether with the introduction of "everyday distancing"
  • Robust contact tracing crucial to not going into full lockdown
  • Social distancing measures by businesses have helped to fight the virus

SUIT UP Webinar Recording

SUIT UP Presentation Slides

Michael Leftley

Michael Leftley

Partner, Head of Employment & Immigration Group
London, UK

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