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Return to the office and hybrid-working: Your essential Health & Safety checklist

We take a look at what employers and employees need to consider as they return to the office.

The current position

‘Plan B’ restrictions were eased on Thursday the 26 January 2022

The new rules:

  • You will no longer need to wear a face covering on public transport, in shops, schools or in most indoor public places, at large venues and events.
  • The requirement to work home if you can, ended from 16 January and employees can return to the workplace, although some employers may have plans for hybrid working.
  • Self -isolation rules may be scrapped completely in March (the current self-isolation regulations run out on 24 March 2021, and the Prime Minister has told MPs that he does not expect to renew them)
  • Changes will be made regarding International travel rules

Supporting a return to work

Employers will need to consider that employees may need support to return to the office, especially if they have been working at home for some time. If employees are to routinely split their time between their workplace and home (sometimes called ‘hybrid-working’), employers will need to have a policy and supporting procedures in place for this.

Risk Assessments for the workplace should be reviewed, especially with regard to hybrid-working.

Factors employers should consider as part of a proper risk assessment for hybrid workers include:

  • stress and poor mental health
  • working with display screen equipment
  • their home working environment

You should talk to your employees about their arrangements, as working from home may not be or have been suitable for everyone. For example, some people may not have an appropriate space to work or may prefer to come into the workplace for wellbeing, mental health, or other reasons.

Employee action points

The employee must also take care of their own health and safety and that of others who may be harmed by their actions while they are working. Importantly, they must cooperate with their employer and other workers to help everyone meet their duties under the law.

There are some things the employee can do to help prevent stress and look after their mental health when working from home.

  • Stay in regular contact with their manager and colleagues
  • Talk to their manager about workloads and be open about how they’re feeling
  • Take regular breaks during the day and use annual leave
  • Set and stick to a routine –and avoid revisiting their computer outside their regular hours
  • Check their employer’s ‘working from home’ policies and how to access help if needed

If you think that your employee’s mental health or wellbeing is suffering, it would be a sensible first step to ask them to contact their doctor, or your employee assistance provider or occupational health provider if you have one.

If you would like additional support to design or review your hybrid-working policy, procedures or risk assessments, we would be happy to assist you.

If you require further guidance on employees returning to the office, please contact our employment law solicitors.

For guidance on the health and safety aspects of post-pandemic workplaces, contact our health and safety solicitors.