Reflecting the Prime Minister’s announcement on 10 May 2020 that workers should be “actively encouraged to go to work” if they cannot work from home, Acas had updated its COVID-19 guidance for employers and employees to delete a previous reference to “staying at home” and in several other respects:
- There is a new section “Planning to return to the workplace”.
- There is a new section “If an employee raises an issue”.
- The list of groups of vulnerable workers in respect of whom employers must take particular care no longer refers to individuals who care for someone with a health condition that might put them at greater risk (although the list is not stated to be exhaustive).
The guidance encourages employers and employees to talk as early as possible about when employees can return to the workplace. However, it states that staff should continue to work from home if they can. Presumably, therefore, discussions about a return to the workplace should be focused on those individuals who cannot currently work from home.
When planning a return to the workplace, the guidance states that employers must:
- Consult with staff and employee representatives (including any trade union representatives and health and safety officials).
- Carry out risk assessments.
- Make the workplace as safe as possible for staff, customers and anyone else who visits.
Recognising that individuals might be anxious about returning to the workplace, Acas advises employers and employees to talk about concerns and to “try to resolve them together”. The new section “If an employee raises an issue” expressly states that employers and managers should take issues raised by staff seriously.
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