The roadmap for easing out of lockdown begins today, but if you are confused by the guidance, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Having read and re-read the government’s advice on our route to social freedom, I found it a challenge myself to process all of these scenarios and get to grips with the what, where and when. Here’s my take on what employers and businesses might wish to take into consideration as we journey along this road.
Step 1 – March 29th
Today sees the return to freedom that we have all been patiently waiting for. From today, gatherings of six people or two households will be allowed outside, including get-togethers in private gardens. Sports fans will also rejoice as outdoor sports facilities also start to reopen including open-air swimming pools, golf, tennis and basketball.
The stay at home rule is relaxed but we are still urged to stay local, keeping journeys to a minimum and continuing to work from home if we can.
The easing of these restrictions means that you could now hold a face to face team meeting outside with a small group of colleagues and offers a chance to informally get together and touch base with employees. Of course, as the lockdown does begin to lift there will be many people who feel anxious about the relaxing of these rules and especially those who may still be vulnerable so we should all proceed with sensitivity and caution.
Absence management – Encourage staff to book leave
Staycation style holidays are expected to be allowed from April 12th with the possibility of international leisure travel to resume in Step 3 of the lockdown roadmap, from 17th May. Many people will be itching to get away so now would be a great time to encourage staff to plan in some annual leave. This could be a day here and there, to pursue outdoor hobbies and sport. What you would like to avoid is a glut of leave being booked in a short timeframe leaving the business short-staffed or potentially having to let staff down by refusing requests. Start the process now and it will make for smoother plans going forwards. Also, it is vitally important for mental health reasons to encourage employees take a break from work, even if they plan on staying local.
Since international travel restrictions and quarantine requirements on return to the UK are still unclear at present, employees who are planning to go abroad may need clear guidance from their employers on working arrangements in all eventualities.
Step 2 – April 12th
As Step 2 of the roadmap unfolds, we can all look forward to a bit more fun with hospitality making a return as pubs and restaurants open their doors to serve food and drink to groups of 6 people sitting outdoors. Non-essential retail and close contact services such as hairdressers and beauty salons will also reopen return as well as gyms and spas and public buildings such as libraries and community centres.
Members of the same household can take a holiday in England as campsites and self-contained accommodation reopen as well as outdoor attractions such as theme parks and zoos.
Prepare for return to workplace
If you haven’t done so already, start conversations with your employees. Since you can now drive to meet up, it could be an idea to arrange a business meeting outside at a hospitality venue. Encourage your managers to connect face to face with members of their team.
Listen to your staff. Find out their concerns, worries and feedback on returning to the workplace. Not everyone will feel the same. Should this be a graduated process in phasing staff back? Be inclusive and sensitive.
Does anyone require training, have their needs changed regarding their workstation?
Flexible working requests should be considered and a policy in place.
Health and Safety – your office space can reopen from next month.
Is it Covid secure and generally fit for staff to return?
Check items that may get overlooked like the fire alarm, exits and extinguishers.
Step 3 – May 17th
By May 17th the roadmap should hopefully be on track to enter Step 3. Working from home is still encouraged but businesses will be able reopen with COVID secure guidance and prevention policies in place.
The rules on social gatherings will relax to allow groups of up to 30 people to meet outside whilst up to six people or two households can once again meet indoors.
Pubs and restaurants will also be able to take bookings to seat up to six people together inside and cinemas, theatres, museums and children’s play areas will open for business once again.
Step 3 should also bring good news for all those in the travel sector as customers are able to book hotels, hostels and B&Bs and by May 17th we expect the government to have reviewed the possibility of international leisure travel.
Whilst indoors the rules of 6 (or two households) will remain in place, weddings, christenings and other life events will permit gatherings of up to 30 people and larger scale outdoor events such as sports and music performances will begin to take place.
Covid security and prevention planning for your workspace
As we move into the next phase of lockdown lifting, it is crucial that employers carry out a thorough inspection of their workplace or office. Ensure that the systems in place for safe working are practical and suitable. Now could be the time for rebuilding teams, reconnecting with company values and culture. Ask your employees how they view the company and if any fundamental changes are required.
Perhaps your policies, procedures and staff handbook are now outdated and require review.
The government vaccination programme is now in full flow and some employees will already have received some protection whilst others are still waiting. Have you considered allowing staff time off for appointments or how you can help those who are undecided or fearful of vaccination? Having a clear policy in place to guide and support staff will be invaluable.
Absence management leave will become very important with so much more activity available to everyone. Be open, clear, and honest with staff of your expectations.
Step 4 – June 21st
If the government’s roadmap and vaccination programme go to plan, then all legal limits on social contact are expected to be removed by June 21st.
Your business may now be fully functioning and staff are permitted back in the office or hybrid working. Allow yourself and your team time to settle. Seek help and guidance where required.
Be open to the changes which are likely to come about. You’ve made it this far, keep up the good work.
The full government guidance in varying formats can be found here
The PSHR team are available to help you make sense of how the roadmap out of lockdown will affect your business and staff. We also have a Returning to Work from Lockdown Toolkit containing checklists, policies, communication plans and template letters. This is available for just £395 plus VAT and contains everything you need for supporting your employees as they head back to the workplace. Contact us today to secure your Returning to Work from Lockdown Toolkit or to speak to one of our HR Advisors. Call 01473 653000.