Josie Broadstock runs Altum HR. In her latest column, she looks at what businesses should be aware of as work begins to restart

Following the Government’s announcement on Sunday employees in certain sectors who are in jobs where they cannot reasonably work from home are to commence a phased return to work from this week. The Government has set out some criteria and guidance on its website, ‘Working Safely during Corinavirus (Covid 19) – Guidance to help employers’. However, there are still many questions to be answered, and the onus is on employers to manage their employees return legally and safely.

As an employer, you have both a moral and legal obligation to your employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSAW) – this includes providing adequate protection against infectious diseases. Regardless of the unprecedented circumstances, this requirement still stands and, if employers do not adhere, they could find themselves facing employment tribunals and criminal charges.

Employees have the right under HSAW to –

· Leave work if they have reasonable belief there is an imminent or immediate danger to them, including encouraging others to do the same;

· Report Health and Safety breaches via whistle blowing;

· Claim for compensation through potential employment tribunals and/or civil court. Employers could face not only employment claims against them for mismanagement of Health and Safety (H&S) but could also face criminal charges including negligence and manslaughter if reasonable action to protect employees is not taken.

As an employer, here are things you will need to consider before and after returning your employers to the workplace -

· Current government guidelines and guidance (available at;

· Changes that need to be made, whether temporary or permanent to internal policies including, absence reporting, flexible working, travel/expenses, working from home;

· Decisions on employee returns must be made with consideration to individual circumstances especially those that could be considered discriminatory decisions, or which might cause unnecessary stress and psychological harm;

· Simply issuing a policy or minor training is not enough to satisfy employers liability allegations in tribunal case. Communications must be documented, trained properly and the policies should evolve over time;

· Just because everyone is affected by Coronavirus does not mean that claims will be unlikely, especially under H&S. Tribunals may be more likely to see negligence being claimed as information regarding employer requirements is so far unchanged in law;

· Records should be kept regarding temporary business changes, communications and individual agreements with employees;

· Risk assessments must be completed as part of employer obligations through both the Employment Rights Act and HSAW;

· Provisions such as Occupational Health and reasonable adjustments may have a cost associated to them and therefore businesses should be aware of their obligations and the cost implications .

It is complicated, but don’t panic. Visit, call or email us and we’ll help.

Thanks, and keep well,