As Covid-19 lockdown measures continue to ease (at least for the time-being), employers need to manage a proper and lawful return to work, alongside a raft of new legal and economic measures (e.g. flexible furlough, possible redundancies and the Job Retention Bonus).
Despite government encouragement (and likely new guidance), employers and employee appear in no rush to bring employees back to “base”. Many are still conducting risk assessments and employee consultation. Others are keen to implement longer-term flexible and home working arrangements.
A note of caution, however. While during the early stages of the Covid-19 lockdown the Information Commissioner and Health and Safety Executive were willing to turn a blind-eye to elements of non-compliance, future non-compliance with data protection and health and safety requirements is unlikely to be excused as easily. Part of current return to work assessments must include compliance with data protection and health and safety requirements.
It is also important to bear in mind that the longer remote working continues the less “control” the employer has over work equipment (and passwords to such equipment); confidential information and contact with employees. Measures which may have been put in haste in March / April 2020 may no longer be suitable, and should be revised, going forward.
Bear in mind also that you may need to implement different arrangements to previously shielding employees who (in England) will be permitted outside their home from 1 August 2020. However, previously shielding employees will need to continue to maintain two metres distance (unlike others who may maintain a 1-metre distance from others provided suitable protective measures are in place). As a result, employers may need to make different arrangements for employees who previously shielded and are returning to work on or after 1 August 2020, than for non-shielding staff.