As the Covid-19 lockdown is gradually being lifted by the government, more and more employees who have been working from home or furloughed have been returning back to the workplace.

The government has released guidance for employers when organising their work premises and patterns in order to facilitate safe working practices, so employees can feel comfortable and protected.

Some of the recommendations in the guidance are based around new working patterns, reduced hours, staggered work times in order to limit employee contact and maintain social distancing measures. If you’re going to do this then there are factors that companies need to take into consideration:

Health and Safety Act

Employers are contractually and lawfully obliged to adhere to the Health and Safety at Work Act, which means that where necessary they must take action and put safeguards in place to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees.

Returning workers must be protected in the plans put together for an adapted workspace – their wellbeing should be at the front and centre of new considerations.

Contractual Agreements with Employees

Employment agreements with employees must be checked before altering any contractual start and end times. To change the contract of employment, you may have to get employees to agree to new terms. There can be clauses that allow employees to reserve the right to change working hours and in this case, there doesn’t need to be new agreements or necessarily changes to payroll. Employees can be given staggered work time periods or arrival and departure and instructed to finish within certain windows of time as long as a set number of hours are completed.

It is recommended that employees are consulted with about changes, due to the need for amendments to working patterns to be reasonable and limit potential discrimination e.g people with childcare needs, living with key workers, disabilities, vulnerable status.

Take personal circumstances into account and provide flexibility where you can for employees.

Legally, employees are entitled to a payslip whether working in the office or remotely, so ensure that employees that are working from home still receive them. The same goes for auto-enrolment contributions that should continue as normal – this is the case for both furloughed and working staff.

Consult

Every change that you need to make in terms of staggered working times and temporary measures should be communicated in a letter to your employee. Safe working measures should be set out for employees and the staggered working times for arrival and departure should be clearly set out to avoid confusion.

The temporary and changeably nature of working practices and patterns should be set out, taking new government guidelines, health and safety risk assessments, safeguards and operational needs into account.

In a constantly evolving situation, it’s natural for there to be lots of questions and queries about payroll and employer requirements at this time.

For more information or advice, we’d recommend getting in touch with our team and we’ll do our best to provide you with up to date guidance and ensure your business can run smoothly.

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