The Risks of Opening your Workplace and your Team Returning to Work

Bryan Mclelland of BSM Training & Consultancy joined us for our most recent webinar on 30th June 2020. With lockdown provisions continuing to ease across Scotland, many workplaces that shut down significant parts of their operations or potentially the entire operation are in the midst of planning to get up and running again.

But with Government advice under continual review, a requirement for a cleaner and more sterile working environment, there is still lots for businesses to ponder to ensure they have taken the required steps to have a safe return to work. That is without even thinking about how your team might be feeling about a return or how they have been coping throughout this period.

The session sought to cover some practical considerations that businesses might take relating to the above issues, as they begin to look at reopening their workplace.

Bryan gave a presentation emphasising the importance of having Covid-19 specific risk assessments carried out, engaging and involving staff in the conversation and the positive aspects this can bring as well as identifying some of the legal concerns where businesses get it wrong.

A recording of the webinar can be found here.

Some questions that were asked during the session

What equality impact assessments need to be done around reopening plans/risk assessments?

There has been guidance on equality and diversity based on the fact that the evidence shows that ethnic minority groups are at greater risk from COVID 19 than other groups of people. So, you will need to do an assessment of your workforce to consider if any of them fall in to this category and what measures you might need to put in place.

What training is required?

The training required related to training on any changes to the workplace made as a result of the risk assessment. So training on any new systems or equipment put in place for example.

Does gravitate have any templates and guidance for COVID19 Office Risk Assessments?

Yes, we have been working with our clients to support them on returning to the workplace. Please contact your Account Manager to discuss further or contact Gravitate HR/BSM Consultancy to discuss becoming a client.

What about landlord/common areas – who’s responsibility is it to address this and sign off?

Apologies we were unable to seek clarification on this question during the session. Bryan has provided some summary information which will hopefully be of use:

  • COVID risk assessment – If you are in a shared office space where communal areas like lounge or toilets are used by all residents, then the venue/landlord should have their own processes in place which you could request copies of to build into your own policy or risk assessment. If you rent the whole property it is the responsibility of the business to risk asses all aspects of the business including communal areas and even address thing like commuting to and from work.
  • FIRE Risk Assessment – A landlord will undoubtably have put a clause in the terms of the contract that passes all liability to tenants. Best to check your contract, if it is not in the contract then the landlord/duty holder is liable. Shared office spaces are slightly different in that they will have a facilities team who will handle communal areas but may pass on the office liability to the tenant.

Can you get feedback/input on risk assessments from staff if they are currently furloughed?

Yes, this would not be expected to constitute ‘work’ for the purposes of ensuring no work is undertaken during furlough – see recording for further details.

We have an employee who we’d like to return to the office from 6th July but needs to get the train and is refusing, what is the view on refusing to return due to having to use public transport?

This is a difficult situation, the issue the employee is citing is something out with the company’s control and is based on the employee’s perception of risks associated with using public transport to travel to work. Ultimately, an employee is responsible for ensuring they are able to travel to and from work, but clearly the reasons preventing them from wanting to use public transport are directly related to the pandemic, so businesses should be less inclined to take a ‘hard line’ here.

This is quite a specific case and it would be helpful to have some further context, if you would like to discuss further please contact your Account Manager. Or if you are not yet a client, please get in touch to discuss how Gravitate HR can support your business.

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