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27
Sep 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Key Features: Updates to the Work Safely Protocol

Following on from our post The Phased Return to the Workplace , further guidance has been given into the recent government changes effect on the Work Safely Protocol. The Protocol sets out the minimum public health measures required in every place of work to prevent and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

While employers are still expected to comply with their normal health and safety obligations, employers should note that from 22 October 2021 the requirement to work from home will be removed and the statutory regime in place to protect public health will be wound down. Further guidance is expected in advance of that date. So what are some of these key changes:

From 20 September 2021:

  • Businesses can begin a phased and staggered return to workplaces for specific business requirements
  • Two metre social distancing, the wearing of masks in certain circumstances, hygiene measures and appropriate ventilation remain in place
  • Appropriate attendance levels should be maintained in accordance with the Protocol
  • Staggered arrangements should be considered, such as non-fulltime attendance and flexible working hours
  • Each workplace must have a Lead Worker Representative that works with the employer to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, and
  • The requirement for self-isolation / restricted movements will continue for those with symptoms, who should immediately seek a test, those with positive test results, and close contacts of confirmed cases, unless fully vaccinated with no symptoms

From 22 October 2021:

  • Depending on continued satisfactory vaccination rates, the Government intends to remove further statutory restrictions from this date. In particular, the requirement to work from home will be removed, allowing a return to physical attendance in workplaces on a phased and cautious basis, appropriate to each sector.
  • Remote working will become a regular feature of Irish working life as the Government continues to implement Making Remote Work, Ireland’s National Remote Work Strategy, and
  • Legal requirements in relation to social distancing and mask wearing will no longer apply in the majority of circumstances. An emphasis on personal responsibility will be encouraged. This means that employees cannot insist on compliance with social distancing, mask wearing or the provision of sanitising equipment or products in the workplace

With employee's returning one of the most important actions for employers to take is to review their risk assessments and health & safety policies. In order to pinpoint how and where could the virus be transmitted in your workplace you must look at the hazards, evaluate the risks and put control measures in place and The Health and Safety Authority has produced checklists to assist in the reopening of workplaces.

In conclusion, the return to the workplace should be conducted in a cautious manner and in consultation with employees. The government is moving towards a focus on personal responsibility from the 22nd of October 2021 and the Government will consult with employers in advance of this date to prepare guidance for the next phase of easing public health restrictions.

Related Articles:

The Phased Return to the Workplace

Let's Get Topical - The Vaccine Policy

Posted in Coronavirus, Customer Update, Employment Update, Health & Safety, Hybrid Working

21
Sep 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

The Essential Elements of a Hybrid Working Policy

Following on from our previous post 'Your Must Have Hybrid-Working Checklist' having hybrid working policies and agreements in place is essential when returning employees to the office and agreeing a split between working form home and in the office. We see the important elements of a hybrid working policy to be the following:

1. Detail the split between attending work and working remotely

Your hybrid working policy should detail the split between attending work and working remotely and state what number of days an employee will spend attending the workplace and working remotely. The number of days will depend on but is not limited to some of the following;

  • the nature of the employees role 
  • what is happening within their role and team at any particular time 
  • individual circumstances 
  • the needs of the business, including space available at the businesses work locations

2. Working Hours
The working hours the employee must work in the office and at home must be stated, for example: For days on which the employee is attending the office, their normal hours of work are set out in their contract of employment.

Ensure you also detail that while working remotely, they must be available and working during their normal hours of work, as set out in their contract of employment while also listing the break and lunch times and being clear that they must avoid overworking, down time from work is essential.

3. Safe-Working While Working Remotely
Detail the procedure your employees must follow should they have any health & safety concerns while working at home, for example; if any work-related accidents occur in your home.

4. Remote Working Procedures
This section of the policy is where you will detail:

  • Sickness Absence
  • Compliance with Policies
  • Technology & Equipment
  • and a reference to data protection

Bright Contracts have recently updated the software to include a hybrid working policy which can be found under the 'Terms & Conditions' section of the handbook. If you'd like to preview this content prior to consider purchasing a licence you can do so here.

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Your Must Have Hybrid-Working Checklist

- The Link Between Hybrid Working & Employee Engagement 

Posted in Contract of employment, Coronavirus, Employment Contract, Hybrid Working, Software Upgrade, Staff Handbook

13
Aug 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

The Link Between Hybrid Working & Employee Engagement

Following on from our previous blog post ‘Hybrid Working: Know The Basics’ we are now aware of what Hybrid Working is and the basics to know about implementing a Hybrid Work Model in your organisation. However, something employers may not be aware of is in order for hybrid working to be successfully implemented, getting employee engagement right is crucial.

Employee engagement can be defined as the mental and emotional connection employees feel towards their places of work, all of which drives not only their motivation but also their productivity and ultimately efficiencies. Offering a flexible working arrangement to your employees is in itself a good way to motivate and engage employees; by offering them the opportunity to manage their own work life balance in a way that suits their needs. But employers also need to ensure the sense of belonging is not lost amongst their team. It is important that employees are still connected to their colleagues while working remotely and, when they are together in the workplace, ensuring that a sense of collaboration and togetherness still exists, thus maintaining the culture of the organisation.

Identifying the drivers of engagement is a necessary first step for organisations looking to improve their overall performance. Organisations can increase engagement by adopting a systematic approach that aligns with the organisations framework of objectives. Some key elements include:

Confidence in Leadership
This is particularly important when decisions are being made in relation to the roll-out of the hybrid working model. It is important to note that every organisation will not get the hybrid model right first-time, it will require testing, rearranging and continuous feedback from employees. In order for employees to really engage, they must believe that the leadership team not only values their opinion but also takes their opinions onboard when designing their hybrid working models.

• Collaboration
When employees work in teams and have the trust and cooperation of their team members, they outperform individuals and teams which lack good relationships. Great leaders are team builders and can create an environment which fosters not only trust but also collaboration. Employees who are cared about by their colleagues is a strong predictor of Employee engagement. As a result, an ongoing challenge for organisations is to gather employees to collaborate on organisational, departmental, and group goals.

• Effective Communication
Employees want to work for successful organisations and as such they want to know how they are contributing to that success. Employees need to know that their views and input count and are valued, to understand their organisations strategy and see how their work objectives are linked with their work areas business plan. A primary engagement priority should be clear and meaningful communication from leaders to employees. To assist organisation with effective communications, tools such as focus groups and opinion surveys are very effective.


In conclusion, moving from remote working to hybrid working is not feasible without careful consideration and communication with employees. There is no “one-size fits all” approach and every organisation will have their own specific set of strategic objectives, as well as employees having needs individual to them. But the key to the success of hybrid working in your organisation is ensuring you have the full support of your employees.

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Posted in Coronavirus

15
Jul 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Hybrid Working: Know The Basics

The coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has completely shifted the way we work and live. Companies have had to quickly adopt new initiatives and technologies to ensure employee safety whilst maintaining productivity. Working from home has now become the normality for many of us and adapting to these new ways of working is essential for business continuity which is why we have approached this blog post as a FAQ of hybrid working.

  • What is hybrid working?

Hybrid working, also referred to as blended working, is where employees divide their time between working from home and attending the workplace. For example, the arrangement possibly will involve an employee working from home two or three days a week and attending the workplace on the remaining days.
Alternatively, hybrid-working could involve building increased flexibility into the employee's working location so that each day they choose where they work, sometimes going in to a workplace and sometimes working remotely depending on their circumstances and the needs of the business.

  • Is there a standard hybrid working model?

There is no standard one-size fits all hybrid working model. What is going to work best for your organisation will depend on the nature of your business and your needs as an employer. There are a few potential variations to hybrid working to consider. For example, you need to consider whether you are going to require employees to attend a specific workplace location on a set number of days per week, or whether your business allows it’s employees to be more flexible and adopt a "work wherever is best for you to do your job" model.

There is also the matter of whether you are going to require everyone to move to hybrid working or whether it will simply be an option for employees who want to work this way with workspaces available for those who need them. In addition, you may decide that hybrid working is suitable only for particular roles within your organisation.

  • What positions are eligible for a Hybrid Work Arrangement?

Deciding on which positions are eligible for remote working are based on operational and business needs and must be made without bias or favoritism to ensure a fair process. Department leaders should first consider the departments objectives, working hours and consider each staff member’s duties to determine if that position can be done effectively with a Hybrid Work Arrangement. Not all positions and staff will be eligible for hybrid working.

  • Who has the authority to approve Hybrid Work Arrangements?

Hybrid Work Arrangements are agreed at the discretion of the organisation and the employee’s direct supervisor/manager. Supervisors/managers have the authority to approve Hybrid Work Arrangements after consulting with their Department Head.

  • Under what criteria can a Hybrid Work Arrangement request be denied?

The denial of a hybrid working request should be based on legitimate business rationale such as operational need/changes, staffing need/changes, or documented performance issues.

  • What if someone disagrees about their position’s eligibility for or denial of remote work?

If a request is denied, or an employee does not agree with the terms of their Hybrid Work Arrangement, managers should attempt to resolve the matter informally with the employee. If needed, managers should consult with their supervisor or division leader in addition to Human Resources. If an informal resolution cannot be reached, managers should inform the employee in writing that the employee may be able to file a complaint in accordance with the employee’s applicable complaint process detailed in the company handbook.

Coming Soon: Bright Contracts will be updating the software shortly to include a Hybrid Working policy as well as other useful documentation, announcements will be made once these become available.

To ensure you have access to the complete hybrid working content ensure you have purchased a Bright Contracts licence.

Posted in Coronavirus, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employment Law

8
Jul 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

My Employees & The Vaccine: Can I ask for this data?

As vaccinations continue to roll out and employees begin returning to the workplace, employers are now wondering if they can lawfully collect and process information about the Covid-19 vaccination status of their employees. As mentioned in our previous Blog Post Let's Get Topical - The Vaccine Policy, information relating to an individual’s vaccination status is categorised under GDPR as special category personal data and therefore represents part of their personal health record which is why it is afforded additional protections under data protection law.

The Data Protection Commission (DPC) has published guidelines addressing the issue of what information employers can process, within these guidelines the DPC have made it clear that they do not consider there is any general legal basis for employers to request the vaccination status of their employees at this time, their reason being “in the absence of clear advice from public health authorities in Ireland that it is necessary for all employers and managers of workplaces to establish vaccination status of employees and workers, the processing of vaccine data is likely to represent unnecessary and excessive data collection for which no clear legal basis exists”.

With that being said, the DPC acknowledges that there may be certain extenuating circumstances, for example those working in frontline healthcare services, where vaccination can be considered a necessary safety measure, therefore in these situations the DPC states that an employer will likely be in a position to lawfully process vaccine data on the basis of necessity.

The current version of the Work Safely Protocol: Covid-19 National Protocol for Employers and Workers highlights that the decision to get a vaccine is entirely voluntary, and that individuals will make their own decisions as to whether they wish to receive it or not. Based on this, in the DPC’s view, this further indicates that covid-19 vaccination data should not be considered a necessary workplace safety measure, and as a result, the processing of vaccine data is unlikely to be necessary or proportionate in an employment context.
These guidelines will be subject to review if the public health advice and laws relating to the nature of the virus, the pandemic and the interplay with vaccination change which is why employers should ensure they closely monitor evolving public health guidance and laws.

To keep up to date on these changes we have recommended the following resources:

- GOV.ie 

- HSE.ie

- World Health Organization 

Bright Contracts has recently been updated to include a Data Protection Policy and Vaccine Policy which covers these consideration points for our customers to include in their employee handbooks, which can be found under the terms and conditions tab.

Related Articles: 

Your GDPR Questions Have Been Answered!

As Easy As 1,2,3: Key Elements of Safe Return to The Workplace

The Home Stretch: The Final Key Steps in a Safe Employee Return

Hello Update! - Additions to the Return to Work Safely Protocol

Posted in Bright Contracts News, Coronavirus, GDPR, Health & Safety

23
Jun 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Let's Get Topical - The Vaccine Policy

The Vaccine. . . a major topical area and again one that information about is changing by the day. Instead of overloading you with paragraph upon paragraph of text, we thought we’d approach this section as a Q&A which covers all questions you may have about the vaccine policy. 

The first question is - Can you insist that an employee be tested? 

In the absence of a legal requirement for employees to take a test, no individual can lawfully be forced to take one, as such an action could be considered assault given the physical element of taking a test.

Employees who have no symptoms should only be asked to take a test on a voluntary basis. Employees who have no symptoms and are not a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case may query the legal basis of being required to take a covid test before entering the workplace. In this scenario, the purpose of the test should be explained to the employee and if the employee continues to refuse the test, employers need to tread very carefully to avoid employee relations issues. 

Moving onto question 2 - Can you ask an employee if they have been vaccinated? 

While employees are not obliged to provide personal medical information, employers may seek vaccination information on the foundation that they are meeting their legal obligations under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Acts. It will be up to the employee if they wish to volunteer this information to their employer. If they choose to volunteer this information, then employers should not disclose this information to other employees. As medical data is considered as a Special Category of Personal data, additional data protection regulation apply and must considered. 

Lastly, question 3 - Can you insist that an employee be vaccinated? 

Currently vaccinations are recommended by Irish authorities, but not compulsory for any Irish citizen. Even with the role out of the Covid vaccination amongst medical workers who are employees of the HSE, for these employees the vaccine was not mandatory. With this in mind, it is likely to be very difficult for an employer to argue and defend a case that vaccination is compulsory in a workplace. There is little an employer can do if their employee refuses to get the vaccine however, understanding their concerns is important and finding solutions that meet the business needs without infringing on their rights is crucial in managing their integration into the workplace. Employers need to think carefully about any action they take and consider the potential legal consequences associated with these actions.

If you are an employer, now you are most likely thinking, 'What can I do about the vaccine and my workplace?'. The answer is simple, employees cannot be forced to avail of the vaccine however it is vitally important that employers promote that their employees take a vaccine. The best way to take a proactive stance here is to roll out a vaccine policy. We would advise doing this now to help prepare employees. In creating a vaccine policy you’ll want to consider : 

1. Providing your workforce with a list of resources where they can obtain further information about the vaccination programme, for example, gov.ie, HSE.ie. 

2. Your policy must recognise that the decision to avail of the vaccine is the individual's choice however the employer encourages their workforce to make an informed decision through: 

Reading information about COVID-19 vaccinations via official sources; 

Listening to the information the HSE provides when offering a vaccine; and 

Being cautious of misinformation around COVID-19 vaccinations by unreliable sources. 

3. Detail whether your employee's will be paid or un-paid for the leave to attend their appointment.

4. If an employee feels unwell after their vaccination they will be instructed to follow The Company's sick leave policy. 

Lastly, we would recommend :

5. That employers include a section in the vaccine policy about employee's respecting others privacy and not having open discussions about the vaccine with colleagues.

Bright Contracts has recently been updated to include a vaccine policy which covers these consideration points for our customers to include in their employee handbooks, which can be found under the terms and conditions tab. 

Related Articles:

- Hello Update! - Additions to the Return to Work Safely Protocol

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Posted in Coronavirus, Employment Law, Health & Safety

16
Jun 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Hello Update! - Additions to the Return to Work Safely Protocol

As vaccines roll out and employees begin to return to the office, updates to policies and procedures are changing as a result, so we are back again with a update to The Return to Work Safely Protocol which came into effect in May 2021 to include new learnings on Covid in the workplace. It incorporates the current advice on the Public Health measures needed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community and workplaces. The updated Work Safely Protocol provides further guidance for employers in relation to ventilation as part of the range of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as well as information on how to approach the use of antigen testing in the workplace. 

The updated Protocol is very detailed in relation to the introduction of antigen diagnostic tests and rapid antigen diagnostic tests. 

Firstly let's discuss what is antigen testing?

The COVID-19 antigen test uses a swab to take a sample from your nose. The sample does not need to go to a lab. The test results are quicker than the COVID-19 PCR test, but it has some limitations.

With the update to the protocol employers must:

  • Consult with workers and representatives, as well as the lead worker representative(s) and the safety representatives, before any testing regime is introduced in the workplace and a process for workers who do not wish to take part in such testing should be agreed. 
  • The updated Protocol also sets out that a written occupational health and safety risk assessment to take account of this new work activity and specific risks associated with the use of rapid antigen diagnostic testing in the workplace should be completed.

The spread of the virus is most likely when infected people are in close contact so the risk of getting COVID-19 is higher in crowded and poorly ventilated spaces where infected people spend long periods of time together in close proximity therefore it is important to maximise ventilation in areas where people are in close contact. 

Ventilation, refers to the movement of outdoor air into a building, and the circulation of that air within the building or room while removing stale air to improve the air quality. This can be achieved through natural means (e.g. opening a window) or by mechanical means e.g. HVAC systems. 

Reoccupying workplaces should not, in most cases, require new ventilation systems but improvements to ventilation will help increase the quantity of clean air and reduce the risk of exposure to airborne concentrations of the virus. While ventilation reduces the amount of virus in the air and the aerosol risk, it will have minimal impact on contact transmission (touching surfaces) or droplet transmission where people are within 2 metres of each other. Droplets containing the virus will settle onto the surrounding surfaces within seconds, smaller particles can stay suspended for longer which is why ventilation is not a standalone measure and continued adherence to other public health advice is absolutely essential.

Employers can also seek to reduce the risk of transmission by limiting the numbers of workers in a given area and paying particular attention to work activities that increase deeper breathing. Determining ventilation of enclosed workplace settings should be considered as part of the workplace risk assessment which should consider the following:

- How you currently provide ventilation (fresh air) in your workplace?

- How many workers occupy or use the area(s)?

- How much time do workers spend in the area(s)?

- Are there any features in the workplace which might affect ventilation?

- Does the workplace have multiple or complex ventilation systems in place?

It is advised to speak to the building engineer or system manufacturer before implementing any changes relating to mechanical ventilation.

Further information on ventilation is available at: 

- HPSC – Guidance on non-healthcare settings

- World Health Organisation?

Related Articles:

The Home Stretch: The Final Key Steps in a Safe Employee Return

- As Easy As 1,2,3: Key Elements of Safe Return to The Workplace

- Our Employees Are Back! – How Do I Return My Employees Safely?

Posted in Coronavirus, Customer Update, Employee Handbook, Health & Safety

10
Jun 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

The Home Stretch: The Final Key Steps in a Safe Employee Return

Following on from our previous blog post 'As Easy As 1,2,3: Key Elements of Safe Return to The Workplace', this blog post covers the next essential steps in your Return to Work Safely Protocol. 

4. Complete Pre-Return to Work Forms

5.Provide COVID-19 induction training for all staff 

6.Keeping a log of contact/group work to facilitate contact tracing 

7.Review other Company Policies 

4. Complete Pre-Return to Work Forms

With this step, a pre-return to work form must be completed by employees at least 3 days before their return to work. The form allows employees to self-certify that they do not have Covid-19 symptoms or have not been in close contact with any confirmed or suspected cases over the last 14 days. 

You can get a return to work form template directly from the HSA website. 

In communicating with employees upon their return to work it would also be advisable to establish whether or not they might be considered as a vulnerable worker. There is a HSE webpage that sets out who high risk groups are, you might consider sending this to employees and asking them to notify you if they fall into any of the categories. If they do fall into a vulnerable category you do have a duty of care to take extra precautions to protect that individual. 

5.Provide COVID-19 induction training for all staff 

Once staff return to work they should be given Covid-19 induction training. This will include up-to-date public health guidance. Similar to the Lead Representative training, the HSA have an online Covid induction training. Employees can complete the training on their phone, it takes 20 minutes and once completed employees will receive a certificate which you can place on file as a record that the training has been completed. In addition to the HSA training, it would just be recommended that you recap with employees on the specific changes that have been made in your workplace.

6.Keeping a log of contact/group work to facilitate contact tracing 

Next is keeping a log of close contact/group work. The purpose of this being to facilitate contact tracing should it be required.

7.Review other Company Policies 

And finally, when you’ve done all of the above you may want to look at reviewing and updating some of your existing policies. Previously you may have updated your Sick Leave Policy to reflect Covid-19 illnesses, you now might also want to consider putting in place a Working from Home policy if that is the norm in your company. And we have those updated policies available in Bright Contracts. 

As previously mentioned, The HSA are applying renewed energy into workplace compliance so it is important the employers recheck and re-evaluate where they are. Have things become complacent? Are your policies up-to-date? Do you need to remind staff? 

Hopefully if you put many of the steps in place last summer, it shouldn’t take you too long to review. But if you are looking for assistance Bright Contracts can certainly help. 

For those of you who are using our Bright Contracts package, Bright Contracts has been updated with a template Covid-19 response plan which can be found in the 'Optional Sections' tab of the software. It covers everything referenced just now and more.
The policy has been written closely following HSA guidelines and checklists. We would certainly advise that you review the policy and adapt it to include what is relevant in your organisation, but it is a fantastic blue print to ensure you are addressing all the points you need to.
 Related Articles:

 - As Easy As 1,2,3: Key Elements of Safe Return to The Workplace

Our Employees Are Back! – How Do I Return My Employees Safely?

Posted in Coronavirus, Customer Update, Employment Law, Employment Update

2
Jun 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

As Easy As 1,2,3: Key Elements of Safe Return to The Workplace

Following on from our previous blog post Our Employees Are Back! – How Do I Return My Employees Safely? this blog post will detail the first 3 key elements of The Return to Work Safely Protocol:

1. Lead Worker Representative

2. Review Risk Assessment & Health & Safety Policies

3. Develop a COVID-19 Response Plan

1. Lead Worker Representative

Each workplace must appoint at least one lead worker representative, who along with management will have responsibility for ensuring that COVID-19 preventative measures are adhered to. 

The Protocol very much promotes collaboration between the employer and employees, and having a Lead Worker Representative is very much key to having everybody working off the same page. 

The HSA are currently running an online course to qualify your chosen employee as a Lead Worker Representative which we encourage you to have your chosen employee complete.

2. Review Risk Assessment & Health & Safety Policies

The next step is to review risk assessments and health & safety policies. In order to pinpoint how and where could the virus be transmitted in your workplace you must look at the hazards, evaluate the risks and put control measures in place. 

If there is a change to how work is carried out, you will need to review your Health & Safety policies. 

3. Develop a COVID-19 Response Plan

The next mandatory point is that all workplaces must develop a Covid-19 Response Plan. This is best thought of as a comprehensive catch-all document that deals with all points of relevance relating to COVID-19 and your workplace. 

The Protocol specifically sets out the information you must include in your Response Plan, this will include:

    • Stating how you will deal with a Suspected Case of Covid-19 in your workplace. You should appoint one employee with responsibility for dealing with suspected cases. You must have a designated isolation area to accommodate someone who may have contracted the virus. The idea being that you have a sterile environment where the employee can go if they are unable to go home straight away.
    • Secondly you will need to reference Cleaning & Hygiene. State how frequently your common areas and frequently touched surfaces are being cleaning. Have you provided sufficient hand washing / sanitisation facilities – all that type of thing. 
    • Reference the measures you have taken to ensure physical distancing.
    • You need to commit to keeping staff informed and up-to-date on what is happening in your workplace and also on public health advice. 
    • Employees have a responsibility here to; they must ensure that they are keeping up-to-date and abiding by the preventative measures being put in place. So it is important to include this in the Response Plan. 
    • And finally mental health. . . mental health is specifically referenced in the Protocol – you will need to reference and discuss how you are supporting employees whether it is through your EAP program or the HAS has provided helpful sources on their website which you should inform your employees are available to them.
For those of you who are using our Bright Contracts package, Bright Contracts has been updated with a template Covid-19 response plan which can be found in the 'Optional Sections' tab of the software. It covers everything referenced just now and more.
The policy has been written closely following HSA guidelines and checklists. We would certainly advise that you review the policy and adapt it to include what is relevant in your organisation, but it is a fantastic blue print to ensure you are addressing all the points you need to. 

Stay tuned for next weeks blog post to read the remainder of the key elements of 'The Return to Work Safely Protocol'.

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Posted in Bright Contracts News, Coronavirus, Customer Update

21
May 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Our Employees Are Back! – How Do I Return My Employees Safely?

Over a year ago now, thousands of employees left their offices and relocated to home offices. As the year went on we began to see different trends in working patterns emerging. I suppose, one of the more worrying of those trends is the fact that whilst working from has had its benefits in terms of flexibility, it has also blurred the lines between work and home life, according to a LinkedIn survey, employees working from home are on average putting in an extra 38 hours work per month. So effectively an extra week per month. The same survey also revealed that home working left employees feeling stressed out. With mental health being one of the key topics of the last year, this is something that needs to be taken seriously.
So how do employers ensure they return their employees to work safely and also ensure their mental health isn’t effected? . . . Well let us be your guiding light and help you navigate through this.
As our customers look to bring their staff back to work, we have received questions on the Return to Work Safely Protocol and also questions on the practicalities of bringing staff back. Some staff will have not worked yet in 2021, they are at home perhaps in a very small bubble – so it is probably a fair assumption to say that there will be some anxieties from staff in relation to returning to the workplace. So it is important for employers to take some time to consider how best to manage the process of returning to work.
To give you an example:
A staff member is refusing to come back to work. What do I do? So the first thing to ask here is what are the individual’s reasons for not wanting to return to work.
Do they have health & safety concerns?
People have been safe at home for a long time now and there is an understandable anxiety amongst some people about going back into the workplace. If this is the reason, then you need to show to the employee how you have met the requirements of the Protocol and how you are taking preventative measures in the workplace. As an employer you have a duty to ensure employee’s safety, health and welfare so it is important that you are taking the right measures and then able to put your employee’s minds at ease. The Return to Work Protocol promotes communication and collaboration between employers and employees. Employees need to be able to show employees the preventative measures they have taken. Perhaps details of risk assessments completed. If there is a particular employee with specific health concerns, you will need to take into account their specific risk factors which you may consult with the employee on.
Lastly, are they afraid to travel on public transport?
Be open to suggestions here as much as possible such as staggering work times in order for them to avoid peak transport times which will mean packed public transport so as previously mentioned be open to suggestions as much as possible.

The Return to Work Safely Protocol was originally published last May, it was then revised and a new version reissued in November 2020 and again in May 2021 to include new learnings on Covid in the workplace. The Protocol sets out a number of measures in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. The Health Service Authority (HSA) also has responsibility for compliance. Overall it has been reported that through their covid-19 work safely inspections there has been a high level of compliance but there has been concerns raised by Public Health around some workplace social contacts where employees are more likely to drop their guard. Specifically, these are around the following issues:
• wearing a face mask
• maintaining physical distancing
• hand hygiene
• cleaning common touch areas
• having visible public health messaging around the workplace
• gathering at lunch breaks
The HSA has advised that employers review the Work Safely Protocol, to ensure that they are fully adhering to its recommendations. They would also encourage employers to re-engage with staff to ensure they are reminded not to attend work if they have COVID-19 symptoms. So what is in the Protocol? There are 7 Key considerations, which are:

  1. Lead Worker Representative
  2. Review Risk Assessment & Health & Safety Policies
  3. Develop a COVID-19 Response Plan
  4. Complete Pre-Return to Work Forms
  5. Provide COVID-19 induction training for all staff
  6. Keeping a log of contact/group work to facilitate contact tracing
  7. Review other Company Policies

These will be covered each week beginning from Monday the 24th of April in blog posts so keep an eye out!

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Posted in Bright Contracts News, Coronavirus, Health & Safety

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