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Employer guidance - returning to work

Guidance for employers – returning to work

As businesses reopen with the easing of lockdown rules, employers must follow Government guidance on returning to work.

It is the employer’s legal responsibility to protect workers and others from risks associated with their health and safety. The Government has provided additional guidance for employers, outlining what they should do to minimise the risks associated with Covid 19. While it isn’t possible to completely remove the risk of contracting the virus, employers must take all reasonable and practical steps to reduce this.

The employer must undertake a risk assessment, to identify the measures needed to reduce risk to the lowest practicable level possible.

The specific steps when undertaking the risk assessment are:

  • Ensure that increased hand washing facilities are available and that surfaces are cleaned more frequently.
  • Wherever possible, employees should continue to work from home. Employees should only be in the workplace if working from home is not possible.
  • Monitor those that are working from home for their mental and physical health and well being.
  • Ensure that employees working from home have the equipment they need.
  • Where an employee is in the workplace, adhere to social distancing guidelines wherever possible by keeping people 2m apart.
  • Where it is not possible to keep to social distancing guidelines then the employer must consider whether the particular activity is necessary in order for the business to operate. If this is so, then they must take all actions possible to minimise the risk of infection between staff.

To minimise the risk of infection the employer should:

  • Ensure people wash hands more frequently and that surfaces are cleaned more regularly.
  • Enhance cleaning for busy areas to include door handles, printers etc.
  • Provide posters to ensure awareness of good hand washing, increasing hand washing and hygiene advice.
  • Keep the amount of people at the workplace to the minimum required.
  • Stagger arrival and departure times for employees to reduce crowding in and out of workplace.
  • Provide additional parking if necessary to reduce numbers travelling together.
  • Use extra entrances to the work place in order to minimise congestion.
  • Introduce a one way system to minimise interaction with others, and use marking in the workplace to demonstrate this.
  • Mark out distancing of 2m in the workplace to allow controlled movement of staff.
  • Restrict use of lifts and turnstiles to maintain social distancing, but ensure people with disabilities have access to lifts.
  • Ensure hand sanitising or hand washing is available upon entering and leaving the workplace.
  • Use alternatives to touch pads where possible.
  • Install screens in reception areas or similar areas.
  • If activities require people to be less than 2m from another person, keep these activities as short as possible.
  • If work spaces cannot be moved to be 2m apart, use screens to separate people from each other.
  • Assign individual workstations to reduce the need for shared workspaces and avoid hot desking.
  • Ensure that people work side by side or back to back rather than face to face whenever possible.
  • Reduce movement of staff where possible and restrict access to areas if necessary.
  • Assign tasks in order to reduce equipment sharing, and if necessary introduce a drop off/collection zone for equipment rather than sharing directly between staff.
  • If the work requires a team to work together, keep team numbers to a minimum and keep the same people on the team.
  • For any work that cannot be carried out in smaller teams, reassess whether this is necessary for the business.
  • If meetings are necessary, keep participants to those considered essential and maintain 2m distancing.
  • Make hand sanitiser available in meeting rooms and avoid sharing objects such as pens.
  • Hold meetings remotely, outdoors or in well ventilated rooms whenever possible.
  • Stagger break times to reduce interaction in eating areas etc.
  • Move seating arrangements to reduce face to face interaction and maintain space.
  • Provide meal arrangements to avoid opening staff canteens where possible.
  • Encourage staff to bring in packed lunches if possible.
  • Encourage staff to remain onsite during work hours.
  • Limit the number of visitors to the workplace at any one time.
  • Maintain a record of visitors to site where possible.
  • Minimise contact between persons during any deliveries to workplace.
  • Minimise contact during payment or exchange of documentation; electronically signed documents are acceptable.
  • Revise visitor arrangements to ensure hygiene and social distancing.
  • Workplaces are not encouraged to use extra PPE outside of clinical settings. If the risk assessment determines that additional PPE is required then this must be provided free of charge to workers that require it.
  • Where changing rooms are required, provide guidance for their use and undertake extra cleaning at regular intervals.
  • Maintain same person pairing for deliveries requiring 2 people.

During an emergency such as a fire the 2m social distancing rules would not apply if it is unsafe, as safety is the priority.

Employers should provide employees with the results of any risk assessment, and discuss the results with them to ensure all staff feel included and safe in returning to work.

The guidance for employers is divided into 8 different work settings as follows:

  1. Construction and outdoor workers
  2. Factories, plants and warehouses
  3. Labs and research laboratories
  4. Office and contact centres
  5. Other people’s homes
  6. Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery
  7. Shops and branches
  8. People working from vehicles

Each particular area of work has its own specific guidance in addition to the above. Requirements for employers can be found at

All information was up to date at the time of writing, however please note that the government continues to update its guidance regularly.

If you have any queries, please contact us on 0114 220 1795 or email


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