There’s been a lot of talk recently about returning to office-based workplaces – the government has advised that employees can still work from home if they are able, but can return as long as workplaces are Covid-safe.

But what does ‘Covid-safe’ mean to your business? It’s about more than ensuring safe distancing and clean environments. Employers will need to make sure that their admin and HR policies are up-to-date and reflect the new working conditions we find ourselves in.

The government has produced a range of guidance for employers, and this guidance is frequently updated, so we are recommending that our clients check the government website regularly to ensure they are taking the latest advice. You can find the current guidance here:

We’ve highlighted the guidance that we think is most valuable for employers at the moment:

A risk assessment – employers should conduct a full risk assessment of the workplace. This includes office spaces and call centres, and if your business also operates a production area, delivery vehicles or retail premises, a separate risk assessment should be conducted for each area. Self-employed people and businesses with fewer than five employees don’t need a written risk assessment, but businesses larger than that will need to have a written assessment available.

HR records – make sure that your records are completely up-to-date. This will be essential if you need to manage a track-and-trace operation. You should also be having conversations with each employee about how they feel about returning to work, and what particular circumstances they are dealing with, including childcare and vulnerable care responsibilities. This should be noted on each file so that there is a formal record of the conversations you have had.

Draft a Covid response plan – earlier in the year, businesses had to plan on the go, but now that we are much more aware of what may happen, it’s worth having a plan that sets out how you might deal with a future wave of the virus. This might reflect some of the decisions you took during the first wave, and it should be communicated with and available to your employees. You may also find that job applicants now ask to see a copy of your Covid plan.

Communication – good, clear and transparent communication with your employees is a key part of getting back to work and managing any future issues. Keeping communication lines open, and updating your employees as things change will help them to feel consulted and connected, and therefore more supportive to your plans as people start to return to the office over the next few months.