As workplaces start to open up to a wider workforce there are a number of issues that HR professionals will need to address for both managers and employees as people begin returning to
work post Covid. One of the key issues will be about who can and should be returning now and moving forward and what happens when an employee tests positive or is advised to isolate by the Test, Track and Trace team having come into contact with someone who has tested positive.
Those who can return now:
Where people can work from home, they should be supported to continue doing so. Those who can’t work from home should now be considered for a return to the workplace when it is safe to do so.
As a first step, employers must undertake a full risk assessment of the workplace and identify how to make it a safe place to work. How many people can the workplace safely accommodate while maintaining the strict social distancing rules? How can you ensure the safe use of shared resources such as printers and photocopiers? How can you ensure the safety in shared spaces such as kitchens and toilets where space is often minimal? Some councils are colour coding desks to indicate which desks can be used and which can’t, in order to maintain social distancing. Some councils are spliting teams into smaller groups and working on a rota basis, either in shifts or working on a week in, week out basis. General office cleaning will need to be increased with cleaners sanitising all workspaces, using a mild bleach solution or similar, on a daily basis.
Those who fall into the clinically extremely vulnerable group and have received a letter from the NHS or their GP to advise them the should be shielding, are advised to still remain at home, only going outside with members of their own household, or for those who live alone one person (this should be the same person each time) and continuing to observe stringent social distancing measures at all time. Therefore, it would not be appropriate to require them to return to the workplace.
Those who fall into the clinically vulnerable group and who are not able to work from home, can now be asked to return to the workplace. However, an individual risk assessment should be undertaken for anyone falling into this category that considers the personal circumstances of the employee in question. It may be that additional measures such as increasing physical distance to colleagues, providing separate tea/coffee making facilities, and providing personal supplies of hand sanitiser and disinfectant sprays/wipes.
The Impact of Test, Track and Trace
Anyone experiencing the symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested. Despite promises of rapid turn around of results we are hearing stories of significant delays in getting results through. However, given the person is experiencing symptoms they should be self-isolating and not attending the workplace anyway. Once a positive result is confirmed, those who have been in contact in the work place should be contacted by the Test, Track and Trace team and advised on the appropriate action they should take. This might include self-isolating for 14 days.
Concern has been raised with regards to the potential to require a whole team to self-isolate following a team member testing positive for the virus. There will be a number of factors that influence that advice, e.g. when the employee became symptomatic and when they were last in the workplace, what measures are in place in the workplace to ensure social distancing, the amount of time team mates spent in close proximity to them.
An example of practice in place to reduce the impact of any positive test result in a Refuse collection team is that each truck team, currently two people, arrives at work at a separate time and sets off before another team arrives. Truck
teams are not able to socialise together at the depot. By doing this if one Refuse worker tests positive, only the other member of their Truck Team, who travels in the cab with them, would need to self-isolate rather than the entire shift.
The Statutory Sick Pay scheme has been amended further to allow for any period of self-isolation on the advice of the Test, Track and Trace team, to be considered sick leave eligible for Statutory Sick Pay. Within Local Government, those who apply the Green Book Sick Pay Scheme, paragraph 10.9 of Part 2 will continue to apply and it is anticipated that employees will be paid full pay during periods of self-isolation that have been advised by the Test, Track and Trace team in the same way as if a GP for NHS101 had advised it. The period of self-isolation should not be counted towards normal sick leave and pay entitlements.
If you are returning to work, please stay safe.
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