COVID-19: Getting back to work safely

As the lockdown restrictions begin to be eased across the UK and businesses are being encouraged to re-open, there are many things you’ll need to consider to get your business back up and running again safely.


As an employer you have a legal responsibility to protect your employees from harm. This includes taking reasonable steps to protect your workers and others while the coronavirus outbreak is ongoing.

Plan carefully for reopening and carry out a risk assessment

Government advice is a good place to start. The guidance on which businesses need to remain closed is being updated regularly. Make sure you know whether your business can open. For individual sector advice, see the Working safely during COVID-19 guides.

As part of your risk assessment you’ll need to consider who could be at risk and how likely it is that someone could be exposed to the virus. You should identify what activity or circumstances might cause transmission of the virus and find ways where possible to remove or reduce those situations. See guidance from the HSE.

Reorganise your workspace

You’re likely to have to reorganise your workspace to maintain social distancing. You could consider moving people around so they are further apart, or working side by side or back to back. You could separate areas with screens to help reduce contact. You will also have to consider any shared equipment and shared tasks.

Remember other places people may congregate together - such as meeting rooms, stock rooms or waiting rooms. Think about how to hold virtual meetings and how to best handle any deliveries to avoid contact. You may need to talk to your landlord about any adjustments that need making.

Cleaning and hygiene

Identify key touch point areas, such as handles, lift buttons and toilet facilities, and ensure these are cleaned more frequently. Consider whether there are doors that could be left open without compromising fire safety to reduce the touching of handles. Automatic door openers or contactless technology may be a good solution.

Provide cleaning equipment to enable staff to clean shared areas and workspaces between uses and make it easy for people to wash their hands regularly.

Understand employee issues

Get a clear picture of anyone in your workforce who may have particular issues, such as people shielding or with childcare responsibilities. Some of your team may be dealing with bereavement, others may be facing mental health issues. Consider what help you may be able to offer. See more about mental health in the workplace.

Remember non-employees

Don’t forget people like contractors, delivery drivers and customers when drawing up your plans. Consider how to make any guidance available to them.

Keep your staff updated

While staff are working from home or are furloughed, keep in touch with them. Once plans are formulated, let your staff know in advance when and how they are expected to return to work.

Telling the world you are back in business

If your business had to close, plan how you will tell customers and potential customers that you are up and running again. If you are changing the way you work, make sure to communicate this clearly.

Business plans

The epidemic will likely have had a significant impact on your businesses plans. You’ll need to take stock of where you are and see what you can do to get your plans back on track. Some businesses will need to pivot and make the most of new opportunities created by changing customer needs.

Businesses that have opened up to new markets and customers or created new products and services will need to decide whether to maintain this long-term. Some new income streams might come with higher costs, so you’ll need to consider their profitability and effectiveness.

Supply chain

Coronavirus has hit different countries at different times, so your supply chain may be affected, especially if you need raw materials or products to sell. If you are supplying other businesses, try to get a sense of their demand over the coming months to better balance what you are producing against what you need to supply.

Cash flow

Key to survival is keeping a tight rein on your cash flow. You should reforecast regularly to make sure you are on track.

If you have taken out a government-backed business interruption loan, work out a plan for repaying it and make sure repayment is factored into your future cash flow. Likewise, any loans, mortgages or rent that you are currently taking a payment holiday on.

Technology

Consider how technology can help you while social distancing continues. Retailers have clearly seen a shift to online shopping, for both delivery and click and collect. Can you direct customers to your website? If you don’t have an online presence, now could be the time.

Training and development

Think about whether your training and development needs have changed. Do you need to upskill some staff so that they can take on additional responsibilities or work in new business streams? If you have staff still on furlough, is there any training they can do to improve their skills and knowledge for when they come back to work?

HR considerations

Set out clear policies to explain what your team need to do should they show any COVID-19 symptoms. Some businesses may even want to do temperature checks before allowing people on the premises.

You will need to review and update company policies where necessary, for example Health & Safety policies, travel policies, technology policies and so on.

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While all reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information provided is correct, no liability is accepted by Lloyds Bank for any loss or damage caused to any person relying on any statement or omission. This is for information only and should not be relied upon as offering advice for any set of circumstances. Specific advice should always be sought in each instance.

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While all reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information provided is correct, no liability is accepted by Lloyds Bank for any loss or damage caused to any person relying on any statement or omission. This is for information only and should not be relied upon as offering advice for any set of circumstances. Specific advice should always be sought in each instance.