Employee welfare considerations
As is human nature, some employees will understandably be more nervous about returning to the workplace (given the amount of time we’ve been instructed to work remotely) than others.
When planning a return to working in the office, your guiding principle should be to safeguard employees’ health and well-being, by taking every step to provide a COVID-19 secure working environment.
Read our advice for making your office a safe place to work
Should they arise, employers should be particularly careful in how they respond to claims they’ve not put in place sufficient measures to ensure safety. All employees are protected in law for refusing to come to work where they have a reasonable belief that it poses a serious and imminent threat to their health. Therefore, if an employee refuses to return to the workplace, this will need to be carefully addressed with individual circumstances considered. While it may be difficult to accommodate the wishes of all employees, employers should act in a way that is fair and reasonable, keeping in mind the duty of mutual trust and confidence they hold, and not to discriminate. It’s in these situations that consultation with individual employees is essential. It’s not sufficient simply to say individual circumstances have been taken into account, there must be strong evidence to demonstrate these have been considered, discussed with the employee, and a record made.