HR People and Returning to work post Covid-19 lockdown

Supporting staff/volunteers is crucial as we move into a different phase of a response to Covid-19.

Returning to work and delivering services post lock down provides a range of challenges for employers, chiefly in two main interlinked areas:

  1. People – Managing homeworking and a return to work.
  2. Health and Safety – How to make the workplace safer.

This page focuses upon the people aspect.


As various lock down issues are relaxed then there will be a phased return to activity across society, the workplace included. Homeworking is likely to continue for some time and employers will also need to manage the phased to return to work for some of their staff teams.

We are continuing to work with Roots HR on support and advice sessions for members.

Employees returning from holidays/abroad and the requirement to self-isolate

As restrictions are eased people are taking advantage of this to go on holiday, with some already away becoming caught up in sudden changes in travel advice and others still traveling after advice has been changed.

ACAS does not differentiate between the two scenarios and there is no entitlement to statutory sick pay for anyone having to self-isolate upon returning from personal or business travel. Therefore the decision on how to handle such situations is an individual one for employers to consider.

Working with Roots HR , our retained HR advisors, we can provide guidance for you to consider how to handle such situations.

If the employee traveled BEFORE travel advice was changed

It would be a reasonable expectation that employers take a more accommodating approach to those who traveled before the government’s announcements.

  • Could the employee work from home for the isolation period?
  • If an employee cannot do their job from home, they may need to take extra annual leave to cover the 14 days of self-isolation or, alternatively, unpaid leave.
    • Whilst employers can require employees to take annual leave, it is very unlikely the notice requirements could be met in this scenario as employers must give employees 2 days notice for every days holiday they require the employee to take.
  • If the employer and employee agree, the person could be put on furlough for the time they’re self-isolating (but only if they were previously furloughed for at least three weeks prior to the 30th June.)
  • Employees and workers are not automatically entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they’re self-isolating after returning to the UK and cannot work from home. But an employer can choose to pay them SSP – or a higher rate of sick pay – if they want to.

If the employee traveled AFTER travel advice was changed

Employers may wish to consider the implications of the decision made by the employee.

    • The employee traveled, knowing that as a result they would have to self-isolate upon their return.
    • There is no entitlement to statutory sick pay for anyone having to self-isolate upon returning from personal or business travel. Therefore it is entirely at the employers discretion as to how to handle the situation regarding payment to the employee self-isolating.
    • All the options as outlined above are obviously available.
    • The employer may consider that a decision to travel after advice was changed constitutes a breach of their code of conduct.

In summary

Given the potential for travel advice to change, likely at very short notice, then employers would be well advised to make their position clear to employees, as soon as practicable, as to how such scenarios will be handled.

In handling the situation it is likely a case of making an assessment in this order:

  • Work from home?
  • Additional Annual Leave?
  • Furlough (if eligible)?
  • Sick Leave?
  • Unpaid Leave?

The above advice has been developed in partnership with Roots HR and with reference to ACAS advice on self-isolating upon return to the UK.

If you would like to discuss any particular HR issues then in the first instance, in strictest confidence, contact the Visionary Helpline on 020 8090 9264 or email us here.

Should you need access to further specialist advice then we can also facilitate that.

As an employer ourselves, Visionary has developed a Covid-19 annex to our code of conduct that specifically addresses how we will deal with any such scenarios – you can download a copy below.

Managing and supporting those who are home/remote working

On Friday 22 May 2020 we held a session on Managing and supporting those who are home/remote working. Led by Alison Smith, Director and Lead Consultant at Roots HR CIC the session talked about the approaches to managing individuals and teams who are home/remote working and the challenges of returning to the work place.

You can download slides from the session below.

You can access a recording of the session here.

Coronavirus: support materials – from the CIPD

Visit this CIPD support page to download a range of practical materials to assist in supporting your organisation and workforce through Covid-19. Documents for download include:

  • General workplace safety risk assessment – This risk assessment can be used by a business during return to work after lockdown or in planning for return to work to identify the control measures that should be put in place to protect employees and others from the risk of coronavirus infection.
  • Record of conversation about returning to the workplace after lockdown – This conversation record itemises some of the topics that should be covered when first talking to employees about returning to the workplace. Further conversations relating to the specifics of your business plan in detail should also follow.
  • Policy on placing staff on furlough – This policy sets out the employer’s process for placing staff on furlough in line with the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. It outlines how the scheme will work, including provisions clarifying furlough pay, length and what work is possible during furlough.
  • Managing coronavirus checklist – This checklist goes through the key areas organisations should consider in managing and preventing the spread of the coronavirus disease Covid-19, from communicating with employees to assessing those who have returned from affected areas.
  • Letter to employees setting out position on absence and pay due to coronavirus – This letter outlines to employees the steps that the organisation is taking to work against the spread of the coronavirus disease, Covid-19. It includes information on self-isolation and what employees should do if they feel they have been exposed to or contracted Covid-19, alongside situations where employees may be sent home.
  • Letter to employees reminding them of their responsibilities in relation to the control of infectious diseases – This letter template can be sent out to remind employees of their responsibility to assist the organisation in preventing the spread of infectious diseases like Covid-19.
  • Policy on controlling the risk of infectious diseases in the workplace – This policy and procedure outlines the employer’s responsibility to protect employees from risk of infectious disease in the workplace, and the procedures it will follow to fulfil this responsibility.
  • Pandemic contingency continuity plan – This policy template can be used to set out the contingency plan that should be followed in the event of an outbreak of a pandemic. This policy covers preparation for an outbreak, dealing with infected employees, dealing with work activities, working, communication and additional advice.
  • Emergency protocol/business continuity plan – Use this policy to set out your organisation’s emergency plans. This policy covers infectious diseases procedures which will assist in responding to the global health emergency. The policy also covers fire procedure, bomb threat procedures, evacuation procedures, and a business continuity management plan.
Downloadable resources (available below)
  • Roots have shared a Homeworking Risk Assessment
  • Mental health and returning to the workplace – This guide outlines key considerations to ensure mental health is supported when lockdown ends and during the phased return to the workplace.
  • People Managers’ guide to mental health – Jointly developed with mental health charity Mind, this guide sets out the practical steps that employers can take to create a healthy workplace and help prevent poor psychological well-being.

This is a link to an audio leaflet by the HSE “Homeworkers – Guidance for employers on health and safety”.

Our HR Matters – advice, information and downloadable resources section of our Covid-19 Knowledge Hub is regularly updated with a range of information to support you as you explore returning to the workplace in these Covid-19 times.

We also have further HR resources available here.

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