CIPD launches COVID-19 return to work guide

The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development has published a back to work guide, with general advice on issues employers need to consider as we emerge from lockdown.

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The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development has published a return to work guide giving advice to employers about the issues they need to consider with regard to the relaxation of lockdown.

The guide, which comes as the Prime Minister announced he will reveal a ‘road map’ next week on how the country will leave the coronavirus lockdown, covers legal, health and safety, risk management and other practical considerations for employers and specifies that employers will need to tailor their approach to their own context.

It suggests a review of whether staff can work and social distance – and if not, what changes could be made to enable that, such as staggering working hours; the need to provide hand sanitiser and, where necessary, protective clothing;  a review of cleaning and risk management processes; close working with health and safety; the use of video conferencing to reduce travel; the need for a period of readjustment; and a focus on mental well being.

It proposes a re-orientation or re-induction process for returning staff and a renewed focus on inclusion and support.

Legal issues to consider include complying with furlough guidance and health and safety issues and the CIPD suggests longer term remote working may address the latter. It also says employers should consider the criteria on which they recall staff from furlough and adds that they should allow a reasonable period of notice before requiring staff to return to the workplace, particularly for those with caring responsibilities.

Other issues covered by the guidance include short-term working, continued use of the furlough scheme and redundancy consultations. In addition, some staff will need extra support due to shielding [this may require home working or continued use of the furlough scheme] or bereavement [the CIPD suggests mental health support, ongoing flexibility and a sympathetic approach to requests for additional time off on normal pay, where possible].

The guide points out that staff are allowed to carry forward some of their statutory holidays if they are unable to take them in the current leave year and says employees should be encouraged to have breaks and says it is important to have a clear policy to allow as many people as possible to take leave this year while still maintaining key business services, perhaps relaxing normal rules around maximum numbers allowed off at once.

The guide says employers should be careful that any decisions they take take into account diversity issues and do not discriminate against particular groups.

There are additional suggestions for employers who operate internationally.

It states: “Communication with your staff is key. Keeping people informed of what your business is doing – whether it is good or bad news for individuals – will help them to make their own decisions and give them some degree of security in very uncertain times. Knowing they are valued and supported by their employer – and that you continue to prioritise their health and safety – will be pivotal to their well-being.

“Pay specific attention to staff who have particular requirements (e.g. health issues, disability, childcare or other caring responsibilities). They may not be in a position to return as quickly to ‘normal’ working. Be aware that some employees who had a reasonable adjustment before may need a different one on their return to a workplace. Similarly, many individuals who didn’t previously have a mental health condition may have experienced mental health challenges and need to discuss changes to help them overcome any barriers and fulfil their role.”

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