Returning to Work Safely

Due to the hard work, sacrifices and resilience of the British people, we have begun to beat back the virus. Now we must begin to recover and eventually restore our way of life. That is why we are encouraging people who cannot work from home to return to work. Ensuring they can do so safely is paramount, which is why we have developed practical guidelines to help employers identify risks from Coronavirus and take pragmatic measures to mitigate them. This will give employers and workers confidence they are safe as we reopen sectors of the economy. It is vital that, as we ease restrictions, people must stay alert and follow the rules, so we can control the virus and save lives.

Who is allowed to go to work?

In the first instance, employers should make every effort to support working from home, including by providing suitable IT and equipment as they have been already. This will apply to many different types of businesses, particularly those who typically would have worked in offices or online. Check if your business or venue can open.

Where work can only be done in the workplace, the Government has set out tailored guidelines for employers to help protect their workforce and customers from Coronavirus while still continuing to trade or getting their business back up and running. These 8 guides cover a range of different types of work. Many businesses operate more than one type of workplace, such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles. They may need to use more than one of these guides as you think through what you need to do to keep people safe. You can read them online here.

These ‘back to work’ guidelines apply to the following sectors:

There are specific guidelines for those who are vulnerable, shielding, or showing symptoms.

What is a critical worker?

Critical workers are those working in health and care and other essential services, who can still take their children to school or childcare and can use hotels and other accommodation services for work related purposes - for example if they can’t get home after a shift or need to isolate from their families. This critical worker definition does not affect whether or not you can travel to work – if you are not a critical worker, you may still travel to work provided if you cannot reasonably work from home.

What is meant by the phased approach?

Not all forms of work will return to normal at once. People will have to prepare for a new type of normal.  Any changes made will be carefully monitored. The Government will ensure that businesses have time to prepare their premises to operate as safely as possible, and will set out more detail about the phasing in due course.

The roadmap sets out that some businesses like pubs, cinemas or hairdressers will not open until Step 3 is reached. We are currently in phase two. The Government’s current planning assumption is that this step will be no earlier than 4 July and subject to further detailed scientific advice, provided closer to the time. When they do reopen, they should also meet the COVID-19 secure guidelines.

Check if your business or venue can open.

Do people need to wear face coverings at work?

Face coverings are not compulsory. However, if you can, people are advised to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces where social distancing is not possible or where you are more likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet. For example, on public transport or in some shops. Face coverings can help us protect each other and reduce the spread of the disease if you are suffering from Coronavirus, but not showing symptoms.

A face covering is not the same as surgical masks or respirators used as part of personal protective equipment by healthcare and other workers; these should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace such as health and care workers and those in industrial settings like those exposed to dust hazards. In addition, you should continue to follow social distancing measures and isolation guidance and wash your hands regularly.

My employer is asking me to come to work but I’m scared.

Employers and staff should discuss and agree working arrangements. Employers should make all efforts to help people to work from home where they can. Where work cannot be done at home, employers should take clear, practical steps to help protect workers and create safe places to work, such as shift working or staggering processes.

To identify precautions needed to manage risk, your employer should discuss the workplace risk assessment with you to identify the practical ways of managing those risks.

If you remain concerned that your employer is not taking all practical steps to promote social distancing then you can report this to your local authority or the Health and Safety Executive who can take a range of action, including where appropriate requiring your employer to take additional steps.

What if they try to fire me because I won’t go to work but cannot work at home?

We urge employers to take socially responsible decisions and listen to the concerns of their staff. Employers and employees should come to a pragmatic agreement about their working arrangements. If individuals need advice, they should approach ACAS where they can get impartial advice about work disputes.

Can my employer furlough someone with caring responsibilities?

If you have to take time off work in order to protect and care for a family member who is shielding because they are clinically extremely vulnerable, there is no reason why your employer cannot place you on furlough. This means that until the end of July, workers will continue to receive 80 per cent of their current salary, up to £2,500 a month, from the Government. From the start of August, the scheme will be more flexible, and furloughed workers will be able to return to work part-time with employers being asked to contribute towards some of the costs of their salaries.

If you are forced to leave your job, the Government is taking further action to ensure you can pay your bills, stay in your home and put food on your table. This includes increasing Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit by £1,000 a year, providing nearly £1 billion of support for renters and introducing a three-month mortgage holiday for those in difficulty due to coronavirus.

Page Last Updated: 16/06/2020.