COVID-19: homeworking guidance set to relax from 1 August

Please Note: All information correct at time of writing on 28 July 2020. We do our very best to make sure our information is as up to date as possible, but we’d encourage you to check out our latest articles and to check the government website for updates as they happen.

The government’s guidance on homeworking is changing from Saturday 1 August when the policy of ‘those who can work from home, should do so’ is coming to an end. The new guidance is that, provided the workplace is COVID secure, employees can come back to work.

This will be at their employer’s discretion, but it should be done in ‘consultation’ with employees. This is subject to any individual risk assessment required if an employee is clinically vulnerable or extremely vulnerable.

Key guidance updates

The COVID-19 Secure workplace notice has changed to reflect the new position. It now reads:

“We have taken all reasonable steps to help people work safely from a COVID-19 Secure workplace or work from home”.

The COVID-secure workplace guides for various different working environments have also been updated, as has the ‘Staying safe and alert’ guidance. The latter now says under section 6, ‘Going to work’:

“From 1 August, it will be at the discretion of employers as to how staff can continue working safely. Working from home is one way to do this, but workplaces can also be made safe by following COVID-19 Secure guidelines. Your employer should consult with you on how you can work safely and must ensure workplaces are safe if they are asking you to return, as above.”

Most of the COVID secure workplace guidance documents now read:

“In order to keep the virus under control, it is important that people work safely. Working from home remains one way to do this. However, the risk of transmission can be substantially reduced if COVID-19 secure guidelines are followed closely. Employers should consult with their employees to determine who, from the 1 August 2020, can come into the workplace safely taking account of a person’s use of public transport, childcare responsibilities, protected characteristics, and other individual circumstances. Extra consideration should be given to those people at higher risk. When it is decided that workers should come into their place of work then this will need to be reflected in the COVID-19 risk assessment and actions taken to manage the risks of transmission in line with this guidance. It is vital employers engage with workers to ensure they feel safe returning to work, and they should avoid forcing anyone into an unsafe workplace.”

Updates in the rest of the UK

The above guidance changes apply only to England. Below you’ll find the individual positions for the devolved administrations in the UK. This is a constantly moving situation, but this is the current position at the time of writing.

Scotland

The Scottish government updated their guidance on 23 July. This says that homeworking continues to be the default position where this is possible.

Wales

Current guidance continues to state:

“Help staff to work from home whenever possible – The most effective way to minimise exposure to COVID-19 is to enable some or all of your staff to work from home, some or all of their time. There is an expectation that employers should be as flexible as possible and make adjustments wherever that is possible. This may include issuing staff with laptops or mobile phones and facilitating communication with all.”

Previously the guidance that you should work from home where you can was enshrined in law and it was a criminal offence not to do so. This has now been scrapped as the Welsh government considered this was no longer proportionate but the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, has said home working remains a ‘cornerstone’ of their approach.

Northern Ireland

Guidance from the Northern Irish government remains that people should work from home where they can.

These positions are likely to change (for example, Nicola Sturgeon has said that advice in Scotland has not changed ‘yet)’.

Citation’s help is only a phone call away

There’s no doubt you’ve got a lot on your plate making sure your business survives the next few crucial months and getting your duties as an employer spot on must be top of this list.

If you’re a Citation client and you need help, guidance, or advice on how to properly help a formerly shielding employee return to work successfully, just give our Employment Law team a call on our advice line on 0345 844 4848.

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