Businesses ‘must reduce risk for safe return’

An HR expert is urging businesses to ensure their workplaces are safe and ready to welcome back staff as the Government’s furlough scheme starts to wind down.

Jenny Heyes, Head of People Projects in the employment and HR team at regional law firm Napthens, explained that businesses should focus on key areas including compliance with health and safety law and staff-wide communications.

She said: “What is becoming clear to many businesses is that the process of reopening is not as simple as just announcing a date and getting back to work.

“Health and safety law is crucial. A workplace risk assessment should be conducted and there are other return to work considerations, with a particular focus on those staff who fall within a vulnerable category.

“A typical office may need signage and floor markings, air conditioning units servicing and shields between desks – there are many physical changes that a survey may highlight. There are clear legal issues that must be resolved ahead of opening an office, and there are also emotional issues.

“Many of the changes being made could adversely affect staff who are more vulnerable, some of who may have been shielding elderly relatives and some who may not be able to return to work, which also places a responsibility on employers to communicate clearly.”

Jenny said reintegration into the workplace should involve consultation with staff, and perhaps even electing a health and safety representative to allow any concerns to be properly reported to management.

She added: “A business may have to regain the trust of its workforce following a period of uncertainty – some may feel they should not be returning to the office in the first place. Getting the groundwork right ahead of time can make the process much smoother for all involved.”

Napthens’ People Projects team, in conjunction with Napthens Health and Safety, is holding a webinar entitled Returning to the Workplace on August 25. For more information see www.napthens.co.uk/event