As the economy starts to open up again, many people are preparing for a return to work. Lots will welcome the opportunity to return to some semblance of normality, but for others, especially those at high risk, as the pandemic stretches on, returning to work remains a daunting prospect.
Firstly, if you’re worried about returning to work, the best thing you can do is have an honest conversation with your employer. Let them know your concerns and ask what precautions are being taken and what measures are being put in place to protect you at work.
All organisations will need to work within the constraints of Government guidelines. This should include communicating how they plan to keep their employees safe and documenting this in a risk assessment. Employers should also consider what measures might be needed in the event an employee becomes unwell at work or tests positive for the virus.
For employees with underlying health conditions, an individual risk assessment should take place, and this should consider everything from how that individual gets to work, to how they can work safely. It should also consider things like maintaining social distancing, using PPE and managing hygiene in the workplace – particularly in shared areas, such as toilets or kitchens.
Ultimately, employers have a statutory duty of care to their employees, and most will want to do the right thing, but in order to consider making reasonable adjustments to keep employees safe, they will need to fully understand the nuances of an individual’s situation. This is where you can help – remember that you’re an expert in your own condition, so it’s important to be as open as possible and collaborate to find solutions with your employer. For example, it’s helpful to share any letters from your GP or from the NHS that identify you as high risk. You might also have some initial thoughts about adaptions that would enable you to return to work safely – be prepared to share all of those ideas and be open to exploring others.
Finally, if your organisation has a dedicated HR team or Occupational Health service, you might find it useful to talk to them too.
Learn more about how the coronavirus pandemic may affect your employment and finances.