What will the world of work look after lockdown ends?

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Staggered shifts, less face-to-face interactions between employees and workplace social distancing are all measures the government is considering in their efforts to allow people to return to work.

Part of the plans to lighten the lockdown include some people being allowed to return to the workplace.

Priority will be given to sectors whose workforce cannot do their jobs from home such as construction, manufacturing and retail.

If and when more people are allowed to return to work it will be done slowly to protect staff from the coronavirus.

Getting the rules on going back to work wrong will put people in danger and risk spreading the virus further.

What considerations need to be made for people who could soon be told they are due to head back to their workplaces while the pandemic is still ongoing?

The Claim

Employers across the UK have criticised the government for providing “vague” advice on what they are supposed to be doing to protect staff and customers from the coronavirus.

Health secretary Matt Hancock has not gone into specific details on what extra rules businesses will need to follow, leaving them waiting to find out what they’ll have to do.

Business groups and trade unions have been sent drafts of the government’s guidelines for protecting staff in the event that it is impossible to practice social distancing in the workplace.

However, Frances O’Grady, head of the TUC, said trade unions couldn’t support the government advice in its “current form”, arguing that there were “huge gaps” when it came to details on protective equipment.

She said guidelines needed to be stronger and more detailed, otherwise they would fail to protect workers and could lead to people refusing to go back to work due to the danger that would be posed towards them.

Right now businesses and unions are stuck waiting for more details on the safety guidelines they will need to introduce to protect people from the coronavirus. Until they know more, many will consider it too dangerous to reopen workplaces.

The Counter Claim

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also believes there are gaps in the current guidelines on workplace safety during the pandemic.

He called for a “national consensus” between politicians, employers and unions on what the safety measures should be so that everyone involved knows what standards to follow and agrees that they do the job.

More detail on the workplaces safety guidelines is expected from the government in the coming days but the Labour leader also called on ministers to boost safety standards as well as outline the details many are still waiting to hear about.

Starmer said: “I think the vast majority of people are really anxious about going back to work.

“I think people are more likely to be reassured and have confidence if they see political parties, trade unions and businesses lining up behind a standard they think is right and enforceable.”

Stronger and more clearly defined safety standards could go a long way to restoring confidence in returning to the workplace during the pandemic. If all involved can agree on what rules to follow then a few Brits can look forward to a time when they can go back to work in some capacity.

The Facts

The government is expected to announce the second phase of the lockdown on Sunday, with prime minister Boris Johnson due to explain the steps the UK will take to lift restrictions.

Employers who have more than five staff will need to conduct risk assessments if they are intending to reopen.

Basic guidelines state that workplaces will need to keep people two metres apart , with floor markings to denote distance expected to be laid down in many areas.

Employees should be positioned where they can sit facing away from one another to reduce the number of people facing each other at any one time.

Incoming staff will need to have their shifts staggered so they are arriving at work at different times and taking their breaks at different times. It should also ensure no area becomes too crowded.

Employers are being advised to provide their staff with packed lunches as workplace canteens will not be allowed to open.



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They will also be asked to provide handwashing stations at entrances and exits to curb the spread of coronavirus through contact. Entrances and exits will need to be different if at all possible to provide a one way flow of people through the workplace.

Workplaces will need to be redesigned so that people can work while social distancing, with measures including rearranging workstations and reducing the maximum occupancy.

In places where it will not be possible social distancing at all times staff will need to be issued with protection. That may come in the form of protective screens to physically cordon off workstations or with personal protective equipment issued to employees.

Retail outlets which are due to reopen are advised to work out how many customers they can handle inside their stores while realistically allowing social distancing to continue so they can impose a limit on the number of people inside at any one time.

Announcing the way out of the lockdown does not mean that path will be taken just yet. The government has said it is still too soon to lift restrictions.



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