After the government’s recent review on the 23rd June, PM Boris Johnson announced a number of changes to the current lockdown measures, initially put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Of these changes certain businesses were allowed to reopen, and the 2 metre physical distancing length was reduced to one metre – all set to take effect from the 4th July.
But what do these new rules mean for office workers? As more and more businesses begin to reopen, is it now safe for employees to return to their offices? Or will many still be required to work from home for the time being?
Can I Return to the Office?
The U.K.’s lockdown, first imposed in March this year, urged the public to work from home if and where possible, rather than working in their office, to help slow infection rates and keep those most vulnerable to the virus safe.
Whilst several changes have been made to the lockdown late last month, the government’s guidance is still for those who can work from home to do so, and therefore not returning to offices unless necessary.
It’s urged that workspaces should only be made available for those who cannot work from home and need the working environment to conduct their job properly. Additionally, all offices now open must adhere to the social distancing measures set out by the government, and must be able to maintain these measures to operate in a safe and effective manner whilst the world adjusts to the “new normal”.
Some U.K. businesses have begun to introduce workers back to the office, this is granted that they cannot work from home, and are comfortable going back into the workspace. However, whilst the government’s advice remains for people to work from home where possible, many companies have not yet begun phasing workers into their offices.
What Are the Safety Measures for Returning to Work?
All businesses returning to work, and introducing employees into the workspaces, should be doing so in accordance with the government’s new guidelines. The government state in their new document Staying alert and safe (social distancing) after 4 July that:
“All workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open. Workplaces should be set up to meet the new COVID-19 Secure guidelines before operating. These will keep you as safe as possible, while allowing as many people as possible to resume their livelihoods. In particular, workplaces should ensure employees can socially distance from each other, or have implemented robust mitigation measures where distancing is not possible, and wash their hands regularly. Businesses should maintain 2m distancing wherever possible.”
The government has developed COVID-19 Secure guidelines, covering a broad range of the different types of work and workspaces, and advising them on how to stay safe and operate responsibly during the coronavirus pandemic. For offices, the guidance states that employers “must make sure […] the risk assessment for your business addresses the risks of COVID-19, using this guidance to inform your decisions and control measures.”