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Safe Return to the Workplace – Guidance for Employers

Woman sits at office desk with face mask on, with a colleague at a safe distance behind.

The Scottish Government guidance for employees is that anyone who can work from home, should continue to do so.  However, some employees who cannot work from home – such as those in the retail and hospitality sectors and those carrying out essential services - have returned to the workplace.

That’s why employers need to be confident that their policies and procedures around the work place reflect the new circumstances in which we’re now living and working. In this changing context, employers should consider their health and safety policies, sickness absence policies and disciplinary policies to ensure that they’re now fit for purpose.

An Employer's Duties & Considerations

Employers have a statutory duty to take reasonable care for the health and safety of their employees. This will include ensuring that adequate social distancing measures are in place so that everyone in the workplace can do their jobs safely.

Public health rules and guidelines also confer responsibilities on employees, so it’s important that employers have policies in place to ensure that they’re able to act if these rules are not followed properly by the workforce.

There may be circumstances in which an employer may want take disciplinary action against an employee for failing to follow coronavirus restrictions. These may include failure to follow the rules on social distancing, the wearing of face coverings and the requirements to self-isolate when appropriate.  Employees need be made aware that a failure to follow public health rules/guidance both inside and outside work can have a direct impact on the health of others in the workplace, and so there is the potential of disciplinary action in such circumstances. Disciplinary procedures should be revised to reflect that, and of course, any disciplinary action taken should be proportionate and consistent.

Employers should also think about whether or not they need to adapt their sickness absence policy to deal with the situation where an employee comes to work and appears sick either during the day, during a shift or on arrival.

If you are an employer and you need further advice and guidance on these matters, including bespoke tailoring of your existing polices, or if you require new policies to cover the changing landscape of your business, please get in touch with one of our Employment team.

About the author

Jillian McLaughlan
Jillian McLaughlan

Jillian McLaughlan

Solicitor

Employment

For more information, contact Jillian McLaughlan or any member of the Employment team on 01382 723172.