Employment Essentials: Returning to Work, Ending Furlough & Protecting Staff 

May, 2021 - Antonia Blackwell

As many of us continue to work from home and/or have opportunities for travel and meeting up restricted, we are continuing to run our essential webinar series for employers to ensure that our clients and contacts remain up to date and equipped to deal with all eventualities!

Our latest seminar focused on the return to places of work. The key takeaway points are set out below:

Supporting employees back to the workplace

  • Ensure you follow the guidance and advice on re-opening workplaces safely including carrying out risk assessments and putting in place COVID secure measures
  • Communicate and consult with staff about the practical steps being taken and make sure staff are clear on the rules they need to follow when back in work
  • Remember that mental health is as important as physical health. For many employees, the thought of coming back to the workplace will be daunting, causing anxiety and fear for some. As ever, communication will be key to reassure and re-engage them
  • Be prepared to be flexible in your approach to take account of employees with differing responses to the prospect of returning to the workplace
  • Be sensitive to underlying concerns or tensions and manage any issues proactively

Practical tips on how to end furlough and re-integrate staff

  • Give enough notice of return so employees can make the necessary arrangements and ensure written confirmation of the arrangements on their return is sent to them
  • Make sure any employment contracts are updated to reflect new ways of working if appropriate
  • Consider whether any training is required to refresh skills or to operate new systems
  • Provide employees with a business update on any developments while they have been on furlough and the steps taken to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 at work
  • Consider if ‘KIT style’ days or a phased return would be beneficial to help re-integrate them into the workplace
  • In addition, think about whether support networks would help, particularly where you have had both furloughed and non-furloughed employees - a buddy system or forum could be a good way for employees to share experiences and understanding

The risks of getting it wrong

  • Negative impact on employee mental health
  • Reduced productivity
  • Health and safety issues
  • Potential employment-related claims

Vaccinations and testing in the workplace

  • Consider whether mandating that employees are vaccinated is a necessary requirement for the business – this is likely to be justified only in exceptional circumstances
  • If mandatory vaccination is required, decide whether this will be for new starters only or existing employees as well
  • Consider the potential for discrimination if mandatory vaccination is required and ensure there is flexibility to treat situations on a case by case basis
  • Consider whether mandating that employees are tested is a necessary requirement for the business – if so, consider the data protection implications of this and ensure that appropriate processes are put in place
  • Decide on how the business will respond to employees who refuse or forget to comply with the testing policy
  • With any approach, get your internal communications strategy right!

Poll Results:


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