With the furlough scheme firmly in place and Government plans, albeit scant, emerging for a reopening of workplaces, employers are starting to consider return to work programmes. For many, the closure of offices and the moving of business operations to employees' living rooms was relatively swift. However, returning to the workplace could be far more complex. Health and safety issues will be at the top of the agenda – from temperature checks and immunity testing, to redesigning floor plans and installing technology to control the flow of people in buildings while complying with social distancing rules, the challenges are many.
And with phased returns a central consideration, employers are beginning to look at how to bring some, but perhaps not all, employees back from furlough leave, or "unfurloughing" as it is now often referred to. Communicating plans with employees and reassuring those reluctant to return because of safety fears will be key, but so will the process for selecting the employees who are required to come back to the office and those who remain on furlough. It will also be the case for many employers who have been adversely impacted by the pandemic that along with a return to work for some of their employees, they will have to make more difficult plans for what the business might look like post-lock down. Whether it involves restructuring or a redundancy programme, a careful process will be required to comply with employment laws and to manage and reduce risk as far as possible.
We have updated our FAQs for employers to reflect some of the more recent concerns in relation to returning to work here.
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