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Current government COVID-19 restrictions are scheduled to end on May 5th.
If your business is in a position to resume trading after May 5th, now is the time to put plans in place to ensure a smooth return to the workplace.
Prioritising health and safety
It’s understandable that people will be anxious for some time to come regarding personal health, which is why you’ll have to prioritise the health & safety of your returning employees.
Workplace conditions will also have to comply with a more exacting standard. Implementing distancing measures as we transition out of the crisis on a phased basis will also be necessary.
Phased return to work
Phasing employees back in small groups will make complying with distancing measures easier.
Identifying which employees are most essential to have back in the workplace will be your first task. These essential employees could be managers or those who perform critical functions.
Leaving a two-week gap between each cohort of returning employees will allow you to manage the return to work and identify any issues before the workplace returns to capacity.
Risks of discrimination
Employees who are not permitted to return to work on medical grounds could potentially make discrimination claims. This is a risk you need to consider.
On the other hand, high-risk employees should not return to the workplace until it’s safe for them to do so.
You may decide to conduct a medically-based or risk-based reopening (using factors such as age or underlying health conditions). If you do, explore the possibility of providing employees with reasonable accommodations to reduce the risk of discrimination claims.
Some employees may be at higher risk of contracting COVID-19, such as those with underlying medical conditions. They should only return to the office when it’s 100% safe for them to do so.
It’s also understandable if returning employees suffer from increased anxiety or stress associated with the return to work, so it’s important to monitor their behaviour.
Offer support (through an EAP if possible), and be ready to engage in discussions with individual employees about how to address their concerns.