This toolkit provides step-by-step guidance for re-opening the workplace after the Covid-19 restrictions. It provides links to key information and templates on the website.

Returning to the workplace

Re-opening the workplace brings a new set of health and safety challenges in terms of assessing business operations and ensuring the workplace is safe and Covid-19 secure.

Employers’ duties

Employers should remember that they have a duty of care towards their employees and should take reasonable steps to protect the health and safety of their workforce, preventing them from being exposed to unnecessary risk.

Planning the return to the workplace

1. Inspect the premises

If the property has been left completely unattended, you may find unexpected pests, damage or breakages — all of which need to be addressed before employees return.

Tests to run before the premises is reoccupied might include:

2. Undertake the necessary risk assessments

These will help you identify the additional control measures and adjustments that will need to be implemented. Use the Coronavirus Return to Work Risk Assessment — Completed Example and Coronavirus Staff at Risk — Risk Assessment Template as a starting point. These assessments should be carried out in consultation with employees or trade unions and should be continually reviewed and adjusted.

The Government has said that: “If possible, employers should publish the results of their risk assessments on their website and we expect all businesses with over 50 employees to do so.”

3. Decide who will return

The priority will be those employees who can’t do their job fully from home. Are there others who could continue working from home for some or all of the time? Don’t forget to continue to support homeworkers. See Your home DSE workstation check and our Working from Home Toolkit.

4. Redesign the workplace to be Covid secure

Review workplaces, procedures and work patterns. For example, you could consider the following.

We have a variety of Covid-secure features summarising the Government advice for certain sectors and a library of useful Q&As. See also the Coronavirus Toolkit.

5. Establish your cleaning and hygiene needs

The risk assessment should help you identify the optimal cleaning regime. The organisation will need to maintain a high level of hygiene. Government guidance says employers should provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers at ”multiple accessible locations”. It might be useful to circulate this Employee Factsheet: Hygiene at Work.

Identify your cleaning needs (eg more frequent cleaning, regular disinfecting of surfaces, handles, keyboards, bannisters, lift buttons, photocopiers, etc) and confirm whether your existing cleaning contractor can fulfil them. Do you need to bring in additional help or order supplies? The Cleaning topic has some detailed advice regarding Cleaning and Covid-19, including how to dispose of cleaning waste.

6. Consider issues around work equipment

Plant and machinery will need to be inspected for deterioration, etc. If employees have taken IT equipment, office furniture or other assets home with them you will need a plan to get them back to the workplace, sanitised and checked.

7. Amend your HS and HR policies accordingly

Obviously there are lots of variables depending on the organisation, its size and activities. Issues to look at might include the following.

8. Devise a communications strategy

It is worth involving staff and unions in the planning process and you should keep communications channels open with staff, unions, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. Once you have a plan, it needs to be communicated carefully to all employees on the understanding that it will likely need to be adjusted as you go. Aim to give employees reasonable notice of a return to the workplace so that they can arrange childcare, investigate commuting options, etc. Your employees must be confident that you are not putting them at risk by asking them to return to work, so let them know the measures you are taking to keep them safe. See Employee consultation and collaboration during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Useful feature articles

Useful documents

Useful news items

Useful Q&As

Last reviewed 18 June 2021