As the government continues to relax Covid-19 induced restrictions, businesses whose staff have been working predominantly from home over the past year or so are beginning to think about returning to the workplace.
However, people holding company jobs need to act cautiously and talk to staff about what they feel comfortable with. The current official advice is that “people should continue to work from home where they can.”
Ministers have said this will be the position until they complete a review of Covid-19 restrictions in the run-up to step four of the plan to relax the rules, which is due to take place no earlier than 21 June.
On that basis, any employer who orders staff to return to the workplace today even though they could reasonably be expected to be able to do their job at home would be on sticky legal ground. But even when the rules are relaxed, it will make sense to operate with the consensus.
That means engaging with employees ahead of time to find out what they feel comfortable with and their preferences now. There is a possibility that even after the work from home advice is dropped, the government jobs will continue to demand employers.
For example, it may persist with current Covid-19 precautions in the workplace, requiring employers to plan for social distancing and provide extra hygiene facilities. There may also be special arrangements for vulnerable workers, such as pregnant women and those who have been shielding during the crisis. In general terms, employers are not obliged to agree to requests for more flexible working arrangements.
However, they are required to show that they have considered them and, where necessary, turned them down for valid business reasons. In practice, a staged return to the workplace is likely to be the best option for many firms; having set up arrangements for working from home that works well does not feel you have to rush into any changes.
Kris Paterson is a writer for WhatJobs.com.