7th May 2020

10 Things Employers Can Do To Help Prepare for the Easing of Lockdown

We’re still in lockdown but are about to move to the emergence stage, when lockdown restrictions are relaxed and we begin to move towards the “new normal”, and it’s likely that the way your business has operated in the past will need change, if only for the next few months. This will impact on staff and potentially your staffing levels.

You may have put some or all of your workers on furlough leave and you will need to think about when they are to return to work (if they are returning) and how you manage this. For those workers who have continued to work, they have become used to having more autonomy during the lockdown. They have experienced more practical and flexible work routines, hours and expectations.

Employers need to think about how they can adapt their ‘old ways’ and blend them with the best of the ‘lockdown ways’ to create ‘new ways’. It could be an opportunity for employers to re-imagine how they operate and look at different ways to utilise their people and their skills.

To help you prepare for lock down restrictions relaxing and as a useful reminder of some of the things that could be put in place to help both businesses and workers function efficiently and effectively, we’ve produced the following 10-point checklist.

  1. Look at your financial position. Will everyone return to work?
    Understanding your cash position in the short- and medium-term will help you to assess what steps you will need to take in order to keep your business moving. For example, can you afford for everyone to return to work? Do you need to reduce the wage bill meaning you need to consider changes to terms and conditions of employment or make redundancies? Devising forecasts with different scenarios will help you understand what your options might be.
  2. Have you considered the practicality of getting back to work?
    Will your teams want to return to work? How will you manage this process? Consider childcare arrangements – your office may reopen before e.g. schools and nurseries.
  3. What does the return to work look like for furloughed employees?
    Will you be looking at a phased return to work for those employees who have been furloughed? Do you need to consider shift patterns and whether they should be adjusted? Will the working day be different? If so, consider communications to inform staff what new procedures and protocols may be required, for example use of hot desking and cleaning. Consider who is returning and when, as thought will need to be given to those who are in the shielding group, any public transport constraints and childcare.
  4. Are you talking to your staff?
    Your staff are crucial to your success, so get them on board from the outset. Ask them for their thoughts and suggestions and what they think you should do and how you should do it.
  5. What does your technology capability look like?
    Will people still be able to utilise remote working? For employees in the office consider how they will be able to interact with those based at home. Will video conferencing still be applicable once the office is up and running again? Do you need to reconsider the positioning of telephones and multi-user equipment (such as photocopiers)? Consider a phased switch on to avoid overloading the system.
  6. What measures can you realistically implement to ensure that your business can comply with the social distancing rules?
    Do you need to review your staffing requirements to be able to meet them? Are shift patterns or working patterns going to need to be adapted to reflect social distancing?
    How will your workers interact with customers/clients?
    Will you need to adjust how appointments are made to ensure that the relevant measures to reduce contact points can be implemented? Do you need to have hand sanitiser in place or introduce deep cleans after every meeting and will you be asking workers to do this?
  7. Are your Health & Safety procedures up to date?
    Have you complied with the legal duty to review your risk assessments and record the significant findings in light of the pandemic?  Can people continue to work at home?  If not, can you arrange the workplace to achieve social distancing?  Consider hygiene issues, such as a deep clean of premises, how shared equipment will be sanitised and facilities for washing of hands, as well as stocks of cleaning agents. Train staff, including cleaners, on new or revised safe systems of work. Consider the use of PPE outside the workplace e.g. on public transport.
  8. Re-socialising back to the workplace: furloughed and non-furloughed staff
    Plan to manage any friction that may arise between those staff that have been furloughed, and those who have not. Consider the social implications of COVID-19 – and manage expectations e.g. seating arrangements, lunch, breaks, and the need for shift cycles. Recognise the contributions that have been made by both groups. Have you managed to capture quantitative data on employee engagement during the lockdown? What are your plans to ramp up communication and engagement, and make people feel more involved?
  9. How will you re-shape your employees’ appraisals and technical work reviews?
    In lockdown, we focussed our effort – rightly so – on protecting our mental health. We need to now assess technical aptitude. Are your managers and supervisors equipped and empowered to assess workers in this way and positively lead your teams? What training have you considered to equip them?

Donna Reynolds, Partner
Accredited by the Law Society of Scotland as a Specialist in Employment Law & Discrimination Law
Employment Law
Blackadders LLP


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