The Government in England is urging employees who are not able to work from home to try and look to go back to work as of Wednesday 13th May (the advice in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is different; see here for the advice in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). The Government have also asked employees to avoid public transport if possible and to encourage other modes of getting into work. This can, of course, propose some further thought around the support given to disabled employees who depend on public transport to get into work.
If your organisation is currently operating or due to be back in operation soon, also be mindful that not everyone will be ready – or comfortable – to commute to work as soon as the Government or an employer allows. For example, employees may still be shielding (which means not leaving the house) when others start commuting to work. In addition, consider where care arrangements may not yet be in place – for example, parents with dependents, or employees with care responsibilities. Day and respite care options may not be operating fully at the time when employers are ready for employees to work at their usual location of work again.
Questions to consider: impact on commuting for carers and parents
- Do you have employees who are still shielding?
- Do have employees with childcare or caring responsibilities?
- Do you have employees who live with others who are shielding or who are vulnerable?
- Will employees in the above categories need to work remotely for longer after other employees return to the work environment?
- Do you have a GDPR-compliant and non-discriminatory method of identifying who in your workforce falls under the above categories?
Aside from arranging to commute back to work, it is important to consider the health risks commuting may pose to employees.
Questions to consider: risk of commuting and travelling
- Can the employee reasonably commute to work without putting themselves at unreasonable risk of infection?
- Do employees have, and aware of, a method of communicating to their manager whether they are comfortable to travel or not.
- Is it ensured that employees are not compelled to travel or will be treated detrimentally from not feeling comfortable to do so, whilst the pandemic is present?
- Can they access or reasonably use a car, have their own transport, or could they walk to a closer site?
- If public transport is required for travel, can employees reasonably alter their start and finish times of working to avoid peak and busy periods?
- Could employees work from home for some of the time?
Getting to work is not the only travel related consideration; many roles also involve travel for external meetings or visits with customers, and stakeholders. Consider whether, even your employees return to the workplace, if visits to external meetings should commence and how.
Questions to consider: travel for external meetings and visits
- Will meetings with clients, stakeholders or other external parties still be able to take place remotely using technology?
- If not, can social distancing measures be communicated beforehand, and practiced during any face-to-face meetings?
- Will a briefing or tour of the facilities and the current Covid measures be compulsory to visitors to receive, and perhaps validated by signature or tick box upon entering the facilities.
- What do you need to communicate to your clients/stakeholder about how you will operate meetings, particularly when face-to-face meetings are necessary? For example, “Our staff have been asked not to shake your hand when they meet you. We are not being rude; we are doing this protect you as well as our staff”.
- Will your staff or visitors have appropriate access and support measures when visiting yours or other premises; and is there a process in place to ensure that social distancing can be maintained whilst providing this support (e.g. wheelchair ramps, elevators)?