Are you an employer struggling to keep on top of everything you need to do before bringing your employees back to work? The government recently released the Return To Work Safely Protocol. This is a comprehensive 29 page document in which they outline the details of these expectations clearly. In order to ensure that your business is complying with the Protocol, you need to understand exactly what those expectations are and take the appropriate measures to meet them as best you can. The Health & Safety Authority (HSA) has been given powers to inspect businesses and their compliance under the Protocol.
As a result, many employers are feeling overwhelmed as they try to keep track of everything they need to do before bringing their employees back to the workplace. However, when you break it down and get organised, the task at hand isn’t so daunting, and we are here to help.
Whether you’re a business in the retail industry where employees must come into the workplace everyday, or in other industries where employees can largely work from home, all employers must prepare for “the new normal”. From reviewing and amending existing Health And Safety policies to electing a Lead Worker Representative, there’s a lot to do. Thankfully, we’ve put together this list so that you can make sure you’re complying with the Government’s Return To Work Safely Protocol.
COVID-19 Induction Training - The Protocol requires that you hold induction training with your employees. This training should be designed to share with your staff all of the changes that you’ve made to the physical workspace, as well as new rules and procedures for work. Depending on your business, these rules might include social distancing measures, the implementation of “one way” traffic zones on your premises, staggered break times, increased hygiene facilities, new communication processes for working from home etc. It should also include any changes you’re making to existing policies, the use of Pre-Return To Work Forms, the Lead Worker Representative and your COVID-19 Response Plan. Read on for more details on these steps.
Pre-Return To Work Forms - Pre-Return To Work Forms are required by the government as one of the most important steps a business should take before bringing employees back to work. The Return to Work form must include a list of prescribed questions, as set out in the HSA’s template provided here. The return to work form must be completed by employees at least 3 days before their return to the workplace. There are many other template checklists on the HSAs website, and these are a great way to help your employees prepare for their return to work, reassure them that you’re doing everything possible to make the workplace safe for them, and identify any concerns that they have which you could address.
Review Existing Policies - The Protocol also states that all existing policies should be reviewed and amended where relevant. One example of this is your Health And Safety Policy, which should now include a detailed section dedicated to preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. It is also advisable that you include any changes you will make to how your business is approaching mental health. This is because many of your employees are likely to be experiencing varying levels of anxiety at present.
COVID-19 Response Plan - Every business must create a COVID-19 Response Plan. This plan should outline the following areas:• How the business will handle suspected and/or confirmed cases of COVID-19 among staff
Lead Worker Representative - Businesses should appoint a Lead Worker Representative. This person will liaise with management, relaying any concerns/frustrations/questions from staff, assisting in the sharing of information across the company, and representing employees as new policies and procedures are put in place. This is a vital role to ensure that both employer and employees work together in a collaborative effort to make the workplace safer for everyone.
Want to learn more about what your business could be doing to follow government guidelines? Check out our previous webinars, all of which you can watch on demand, in which we talk through all of the government advice and what it means for employers.