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Better guidance needed on return to work

Following yesterday’s announcement by the Prime Minister that said those who could not work from home should be “actively encouraged to go to work”, employment experts have asked for greater clarification on how that can practicably be achieved.

Rustom Tata, Partner at law firm DMH Stallard, said: “PM Boris Johnson says that people who can’t work from home should be actively encouraged to go to work, with construction and manufacturing two specific industries being mentioned. But is this realistic?

“Many workers, presumably on furlough if they haven’t been able to work for the last couple of months, will still be concerned about the health risks of attending at work without there being very clear provisions in terms of what protective measures are being taken in the workplace.”

BCC Director General Adam Marshall called for “detailed plans for the phased easing of restrictions, coordinated with all nations across the UK and supported by clear guidance. It is imperative that companies have detailed advice on what will need to change in the workplace, including clarity on the use of PPE.”

Commenting on the PM’s advice that people who return to work should avoid public transport, Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary said: “People cannot get to work safely unless there is safe transport for them to use. Yet there is now a real risk that in a few hours’ time, workers will be cramming onto public transport, putting at risk their lives and those of others. This has not been thought through and the failure to do so places working people in danger.”

He added: “Issuing safety guidance to employers instead of definite, mandatory instructions is not acceptable. This runs a huge risk that some employers will follow the advice while others do not, and we urgently need to hear more from government about how it will install the inspection and enforcement systems necessary to support safe working.”

Daniel Dickson, Chief Executive Officer, UK and Ireland for integrated FM provider Atalian Servest said there is, “opportunity for us to rethink the role of the workplace. What can we do differently to support people to have their best day at work? What does the post-pandemic workplace look and feel like? How does the employee experience need to change to adapt to this new normal?

“One thing is certain among all the uncertainty,” said Dickson. “The perception of the importance of front-line facilities teams has vastly increased since this pandemic began. People now recognise the crucial role that cleaning operatives, security officers, catering staff and maintenance engineers play in keeping them safe and healthy at work. They’re the people who have often been at the front-line during this crisis while the rest of us have worked from home. Managing a workplace is no longer the Cinderella profession. It’s come out of the shadows.”

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