- Posted Tuesday May 19, 2020
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement last week that those that can, should return to work, concerns have been raised by some employees that don’t feel safe about returning to work, or simply cannot due to childcare as children are of course not back at school.
So, as an employer, what can you do?
The government and the Health and Safety Executive have produced guidelines that help employers understand who should be in work and what to do if some employees are worried. Practices have of course been open through the epidemic so far, so all relevant measures should already be in place to make sure the working environment is as safe as possible, but has anything changed for those employees that have been at home?
The Extremely Vulnerable - the Shielding group
These are the employees who received a letter from their GP advising them to stay inside for at least 12 weeks. They must still stay at home on full pay, as advised by NHS England.
Those that live with somebody who is “Extremely Vulnerable”
HSE have advised employers to plan for those people that have been at home due to living with someone who is Extremely Vulnerable. Examples could be temporarily changing their job roles to one of the safer options such as not patient facing or only doing consultations over the phone.
Those in the Vulnerable group
Many practices made the decision to send home employees in the vulnerable group (such as the over 70s) for their own safety. It might be the decision of the partners that those employees should now be brought back to work. The guidance on GOV.UK (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19) states that these people should be offered the safest on site role, enabling them to stay 2m away from other people. It is the decision of the practice to carefully judge whether the level of risk is acceptable. It might be considered risky to force somebody back to work if they are in this category.
Those caring for children
As Key Workers, there should be places available for children in the local area. Though of course many parents are preferring to keep their children at home. Should an employee not be able to return to work because they need to care for children, those employees could take (or continue) Unpaid Parental Leave, Unpaid Leave or Unpaid Dependent Leave.
What do you do if an employee refuses to come back in to work?
There are many employees out there that are worried about coming back to work and might choose to stay off work until they feel it is a bit safer. Every situation is different and should be reviewed individually, however taking Unpaid Leave will remain a viable options for most scenarios. It is not advisable to start disciplinary action at this stage as employees do have a right not to come in to work if they feel there is a serious risk to their health, however as the situation progresses, it might be reasonable to look at disciplinary action should employees still refuse to return to work in the not so distant future.
Take a look at the attached Flowchart that works as a guide for employers in what to do with employees returning to the workplace.
(Click here to download)
FPM Members can download our Pandemic HR FAQs for Practice Managers Guide, available in the Pandemic Toolkit Library.