As lockdown eases and businesses and shops are starting to go back to full operation, many businesses are still in the process of working out how to bring their employees back safely. For small businesses, finding the balance between keeping the company afloat and keeping employees and customers safe during the pandemic can be complex, from something as simple as having to install new equipment such as perspex screens to renewing or checking insurance policies and working out the logistics of how many customers or employees could be in the office or store at any one time.
To help you with the reopening, we’ve put together a simple step-by-step guide to set you on the right track.
Step 1: Assess
The first step to preparing your business for reopening is to assess and review your standard situation to determine how many changes may need to be made to ensure employee and public safety.
The first thing you need to do is find out if returning to work is permitted. Government advice is constantly changing, so it’s important to keep up to date with the current advice and guidance issued to employers and businesses. Most industries will have their own guidelines according to their needs and business operations, meaning that while a construction worker may be able to go back to the building site, a hairdresser still isn’t able to open up shop just yet.
You should also consider if there are alternative solutions to keeping your business afloat. Do you need to be in the office or on the premises in order to function? Could some or all of your staff work from home? If you need to return to the office or your work involves entering other people’s homes or offices, you’ll need to make sure you read into and follow all government guidelines for your sector.
Step 2: Prepare
Once you’ve assessed whether it’s safe or essential to return to work and whether you’re allowed to do so, your next step is to prepare for that return. This will include anything from communicating with staff to determine how they feel about the return, completing in-depth risk assessments, checking that your insurance is still valid and putting together action plans for how you’re going to make things safe.
The government advice for COVID-19 risk assessments is currently to carry out an assessment in line with HSE guidelines and to consult with your employees and/or trade unions for their thoughts. The results of the risk assessment should also be shared with your employees and, ideally, should be available on your website for customers.
If you’ve cancelled your insurance in the past few months due to furloughed staff or a because your business hasn’t been operating, then you’ll need to make sure you take out a new policy that covers your employees and customers before you go back to work. All businesses must have Employer’s Liability Insurance as a legal requirement, but it’s also advised that you take out a Public Liability insurance policy to ensure that you and your customers are protected.
You’ll also need to put together a plan on how you will help your employees safely return to work, and communicate this clearly with each of them. The plans need to be carefully made to ensure maximum safety and that all government rules and guidelines are followed. Employees need to understand what is expected of them and of the business when you return, so make sure that all plans you make are clear from the very start.
Step 3: Implement
Once plans have been made, it’s time to start implementing them. Before you even allow employees back into the work premises, you’ll need to make sure there are plenty of handwashing and hygiene facilities including hand sanitiser, and you’ll also need to determine whether wearing masks or face coverings is beneficial or necessary. If you’re speaking to customers directly regularly, visors and masks could be a benefit and where possible, you should provide your employees with these but bear in mind that they need to fit properly to be effective.
You’ll also need to increase the amount of time spent cleaning the premises including all ‘hot spot’ surfaces and public areas. You can set guidelines for your employees for keeping their personal space clean during the day, as well as clear cleaning regimes for toilets and kitchens.
While you may be keeping on top of cleaning, you should also maintain approximately 2 metres of distance between each employee and customers where possible, including putting up signs to remind people to adhere to that guideline. You could arrange a one-way system through the premises, as well as avoiding multi-person use of a single workstation. If you do have clients visit the office regularly, why not make this by appointment only? That way, you can have better control over who is in the office or store at any one time.
Step 4: Monitor
Once all of the measures have been introduced and your employees are back at work, you need to monitor the situation closely. Keep an eye on whether employees are following the rules and make sure that you reiterate the plans if it seems like they haven’t understood what is in place and why. Check with employees regularly to see their thoughts on the measures and whether additional action could be taken to improve safety further now that they’ve had time to adjust to the new ones.
You should also conduct regular risk assessments of your own according to the changing guidelines and advice that is given by the government. As things evolve, you may need to introduce new measures, reduce others and in some cases, this will mean adapting how your business operates. Some businesses will need to conduct more regular risk assessments than others depending on how many people there are, how many customers you are likely to come into contact with and the environment that you are in. If any of your employees show signs of COVID-19, you should send them home for the allocated 14-day quarantine and conduct a full risk assessment as to whether it’s safe for your other employees to remain at work.
For more advice about returning to work and how your insurance policy will protect your business and employees at this time, feel free to get in touch for information or for a quote, today.