Legal Guides

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Returning to the office but will it be the same as pre-covid?

The last year or so has seen many debates between people in relation to whether they prefer home working to that of working in the office.

Many are a ‘working in the office’ type of person, for various reasons. Others, however, have continued working from home and are now at the point where they cannot wait for office working.

Many firms have quickly adapted and have made changes to their policies such as hybrid working (few days in the office and a few days at home), many have allowed their staff to work from wherever, whenever as long as customers’ need are met and then there are the few who expect staff to come back to the office just as they did pre-covid.

Questions may arise as to how much force can an employer place on an employee to return to the office or whether staff must be double vaccinated before they can take a step into the building.

Understandably, many people are concerned about the return, from whether the office is covid compliant to how safe would it be to start mixing with colleagues or clients.

As an employer, it is your duty to ensure your staff’s safety. Early risk management and continuous communication during the transition from home working to office working should aid in the shift.

Employers should be aware that their staff, rightly so, may have many questions and it is always a good idea to have a conversation with each staff member prior to the return so that expectations can be managed.

Remember to regularly check in with staff even after the transition is complete. Some may find it difficult to ease back in after being away for almost 15 months. 

If you have made a change in policy to either hybrid or remote working, ensure all affected staff have the right equipment and a risk assessment of their working area at home has been undertaken. The duty to ensure staff safety continues even if staff are working remotely.

And remember, ensure your policies are up to date and cover changes to policies or extend to the introduction of new processes. Any changes to location may result in a change to the employee’s contract of employment so do be cautious when making such changes and ensure the employee is consulted and changes are agreed.

Author: Zainab Zaeem-Sattar, Summerfield Browne

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. It is merely a general comment on the relevant topic. If specific advice is required in connection with any of the matters covered above, please speak to Summerfield Browne directly.

If you’re unsure as to you how you are affected as an employer and would like assistance on ensuring you remain compliant with the rules, contact the employment team at Summerfield Browne on 0116 208 1495.

Published on 19th July 2021
(Last updated 20th July 2021)

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