The new normal?

Updated: May 7, 2020

The first thing I saw this morning when I looked at my phone was the, somewhat unsurprising, news that the Chancellor plans to trim back the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme that has seen over 6 million UK employees put on furlough and 80% of their wages.

We all knew it would have to end but there have been significant concerns over how this would be brought to an end and when.  I’ve spoken to a few people over the last few weeks and told them my suspicion that the government would start to remove the scheme sector by sector and that looks like that may be what happens.

Boris Johnson is due to outline his plan on Sunday (10th May) to bring us out of the lockdown and ease the restrictions that have seen the vast majority of us confined to our homes since the 23rd March. In the easing of restrictions it’s likely that various types of business will be allowed to re-open in a boost to slowly ease us back to some normality and to remove huge numbers of people from the furlough scheme

Therefore, it’s worth you spending some time now thinking about the changes that you will need to consider to ensure that you can keep everyone working safely. Health and Safety experts are encouraging all businesses to carry out a risk assessment, and it’s worth thinking about this as a ‘door to door’ strategy as well – the employees door and back again.

Travel to work

With that in mind, how do your people get to work?  Car shares may need to be stopped, those on public transport may need to avoid the ‘rush hour’ so they’re not on cramped and crowded trains, trams or buses.  Can you consider adjusting start and finish times so that people aren’t travelling in peak times.  Can you open up more car parking spaces on site to encourage people to drive in? Do you have, or can you install safe places for people to park bicycles so people can cycle to work?

You may take the view that ‘their commute is not your problem’ but we all need to play our part in ensuring that we continue to remain safe and remember this is highly contagious, if one in your workplace gets it, how many others could?

Social distancing

We know that social distancing is going to be required for many months and therefore you have an obligation to ensure that all your workers can remain 2 metres apart and remain 2 metres away from visitors and customers.  So, will you need to rearrange your offices to ensure that people are situated more than 2 metres away from their colleagues.

You may need to limit the amount of people on your premises to comply with distancing, so can some people continue to work from home?  This could be rotated so that no group feel disadvantaged.

You may need to think about access and egress in the building so people aren’t crossing paths.  If you have more than one access point, can you designate one ‘in’ and one ‘out’ to avoid close contact from people entering and exiting buildings?

Physical changes

Do you need to make physical changes to your premises?  You’ll have seen in supermarkets that perspex screens are now in place at checkouts to shield the staff and customers.  If you deal with external visitors you should be considering these kind of changes.

You may also need to consider designating walkways around your premises to avoid accidental close contact.

Lunching out

If you work in a town or a place where people regularly go out and get their lunch, this could also pose a potential risk.  Businesses in China are now buying in lunches to avoid their staff having to go out to eat.  Check out what your local corporate caterers can do for you and support them as well, if you need a recommendation check out one of my clients, Posh Nosh.

Good hygiene

In addition to the above, the things that you’d put in place before lockdown will need to continue, encouragement of good hygiene.  Ensure that you have adequate and suitable handwashing facilities and robust cleaning processes in place.  Discourage the sharing of equipment and ensure any shared equipment such as touchscreens, tablets, telephones etc are cleaned after each use.

Lead times of PPE and anti-bac cleaning supplies are much extended so it’s best to think about this now, before you go back to work to ensure that you have what you need in time.

You may have other considerations specific to your business so do think about all aspects of your business while doing your risk assessment and speak to your health and safety representative for bespoke advice.

Please note our blog posts contain general information and are intended as guidance only and should not be taken as an authoritative or current interpretation of the law. Please ensure that you obtain advice tailored to your individual situation before taking action. These posts apply to the UK only.

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