Life after Lockdown - Returning to the office

At the press conference on the 5th July, the Prime Minister announced the relaxation of the regulations on the 19th July subject to a review of the latest data on the 12th July. If the regulations are relaxed, then employees will be able to return to the office on the 19th July.

Until that date, the existing rules apply and workers who can work from home should do so wherever possible.

However, some scientists and doctors are suggesting that a mass return to the office on the 19th July is not the best way forward and employers should gradually implement the return of employees to the office.

Surprisingly, although much of the media has focused on the benefits of home working, there appears to be an appetite for employers to have employees return to the office. According to the Office for National Statistics just 24% of businesses plan to use home working as a permanent fixture and 36% of workers said they would plan to work from home for only some of their working week.

Several of London's major city banks have been some of the voices speaking out in favour of getting workforces back into the office as soon as possible. Some employers are still weighing up their options - and more than a quarter of firms still do not know what they will do once restrictions are eased. There's no doubt we must all learn to live with this virus in the community and as an employer it is important to help reduce the spread.

The CIPD says employers must take an individualised approach to consider the wellbeing of the workforce, as well as monitor ongoing government guidance. Employers have a duty of care to ensure that the workplace is sufficiently safe to return to. This may involve continued social distancing measures, wearing of face coverings and possible changes to working hours to reduce risk of exposure, or improved workplace cleaning and sanitisation.

Employers should also listen to any concerns employees may have around travelling to the workplace and/or being in the workplace, as although the regulations may have been relaxed, the Delta variant is still spreading and may be a cause of concern for employees. You may also need to provide some form of flexibility due to the self-isolation rules if employees have symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive. In addition, employees may need to work from home periodically or have time off at short notice as they may have children who are unable to attend school and required to isolate.

If you are an employer with a workplace issue related to the return to the office or if you want to discuss any other employment law issue, contact the Employment team at Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.