Preparing for a Safe Return to the Workplace: UK Government Issues Updated Guidelines

July 2021
Region: Europe

It feels as if we have been talking about what to do when your staff return to the office for some years now, but finally, we appear to be getting closer to that actually happening!

Next Monday (19 July), the government’s formal advice to “work from home if you can” will end and employers will, up to a point, be able to require their staff to return to the office (assuming this is their contractual place of work). Having said that, nobody is anticipating a mad rush back to the office, not least because the government’s stance has already softened and it now says it “expects and recommends a gradual return over the summer”. This is indeed the approach that most employers seem to be taking, partly of their own volition and partly because their employees are generally giving them no practical choice in the matter. A number of factors (general uncertainty, a lack of clear guidance from the government on what workplaces should look like post-19 July, rising COVID-19 cases, summer holidays, etc.) have all come together to mean that most businesses are adopting a phased return to the office.

To coincide with this latest step in the roadmap, the government has issued updated Workplace Guidelines setting out “sensible precautions employers can take to manage risk and support their staff and customers”. This is discussed in more detail, as we set out some of the most likely practical questions to arise as we enter this new phase.