Before inviting employees back into the workplace, there are many important considerations for employers. Creating a Return to Work (RTW) program will help you ensure health and safety regulations are met, in addition to fulfilling your duty to protect the health and safety of workers.
A cohesive RTW plan includes risks assessment and implementing controls before the return to work plan begins, to protect employees. While this guide applies to most workplaces, each employer must customize it to their unique workforce and consult union representatives, if applicable.
Create a team that will plan, prep, and monitor the reopening of the work environment, such as an office. This dedicated group can carry out the risk assessments, as well as identify ways to minimize risk and guidelines for meeting any potential obstacles with the return to work process.
A contingency plan is some thing that employers must formulate so that operations can continue if there is a potential problem in the workplace in the future. For example, if there is a coronavirus outbreak that forces the employer to close the workplace or if the government forces operations to close, how can business continue? What will that look like?
Employers must also analyze how to change the physical layout of the workplace to meet social distancing rules and reduce risks to employees. Furthermore, creating a policy and putting up signage to control workplace access will be necessary for everyone’s safety. This access control policy will vary by the workplace.
Written policies and procedures for employees must be created. Key topics are physical distancing in the workplace and what to do if employees are sick with the coronavirus or suspect they are infected with it. Employers must also maintain these policies, ensuring they are not outdated or ineffective, and HR departments must educate workers on new procedures.
A phased return will be a key consideration for employers to minimize health and safety risks to employees. It may involve your HR team bringing a small core group back to the office while others keep working remotely from home. If an employee worries about returning to work, then that is a special consideration to be included in this RTW plan. For example, an employee might be vulnerable to illness and, therefore, be more susceptible to the coronavirus.
For any return to workplan to be effective, it must be communicated well to employees before the RTW process begins, as well as during and afterward. When your HR team relays the measures that your business has in place for safely reopening the workplace, they can do so by email or another method. An automated software solution can simplify the process, making sure that employees have a way to privately ask any questions they may have in response to these broadcasts.
Reopening the workplace is important for the economy. However, it must be done properly, by following a well-laid-out plan for the health and safety of employees. The guide above covers the main points to help you with planning during this unique time.