Sentient Group Ltd
Info Update 2020/45                                                        Issue Date: 03/09/2020
Getting Back to Work
COVID-19 and other health and safety matters

The government will be publishing advertisements in the TV and media to encourage the public back to work with Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, saying:

What we are saying to people is it is now safe to go back to work and your employer should have made arrangements which are appropriate to make sure that it is coronavirus-safe to work”. (Sky News, 28.08.2020)

It is acknowledged that the virus has not gone away, but it is being reported as a positive message to workers designed to reduce resistance from employees about returning to the workplace, which will help employers get back up and running.

Nevertheless some employees may still find returning to work difficult; they may be in one of the extremely vulnerable groups; others may be caring for vulnerable family members, such as elderly parents and vulnerable or disabled children. Employers should bear this in mind when discussing returning to work with employees, as those employees may feel that a demand to return to work is discriminatory under the Equality Act.

Effective consultation with employees is vital when planning returns to work. Don’t hesitate to contact our HR Advice line if you need advice on managing returns to work, particularly if you have concerns relating to Equality and Discrimination.

Planning your COVID Secure Reopening

COVID-19 measures
Do you have the right controls in place? Have you followed the government guidance booklet for your sector (the government has produced COVID guidance for wide range of sectors in an easy to follow format) and have you displayed the Staying COVID-19 Secure in 2020 notice to show that you have made your workplace COVID Secure?

To be able to display the notice and reopen your business you will need to confirm that you have:
  • Carried out a COVID-19 Risk Assessment and shared the results with your employees;
  • Cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures in place in line with guidance;
  • Taken all reasonable steps to help people work safely from a COVID-19 safe workplace or from home;
  • Taken all reasonable steps to maintain a 2m distance in the workplace;
  • Ensured that where people cannot keep 2m apart that you have ensure at least a 1m distance and taken all mitigating actions possible to manage transmission risks.

Risk Assessments
Make sure you have COVID-19 Risk Assessment in place. Sentient have produced COVID risk assessment templates you can use as a starting point and Sentient are available for advice if needed.

Don’t forget to review your existing task risk assessments and workplace risk assessments too. Do they take account of issues caused by COVID-19? This could affect a whole range of issues including; changes in staffing, and consequently, training and competence of individuals available to carry out the work; provision of PPE and lack of availability affecting whether the work can be done safely; and the effect of COVID-19 measures on teams and team work activities.

Information, Instruction and Training
Have you provided your employees (and contractors and visitors) with information, instruction and training to ensure that they know what they need to do to contribute to a COVID-19 safe workplace? Consider issuing a tool box talk on the first morning back, detailing your control measures, emergency procedures and reporting procedures in the event of any employees developing symptoms.

During the training you can advise employees on how they should wash their hands, how to don and doff PPE such as masks and gloves safely and how to minimise transmission. Some employers have even issued employees with individual hand sanitisers which they can keep on their person at all times – this ensures employees can easily sanitise their hands prior-to and following contact with frequently touched surfaces around the workplace.

Prepare your COVID-19 Response Plan

You will need to put a plan in place to manage risk if a COVID-19 case arises in your workplace. There should be a single point of contact (SPOC) whom employees should contact if they feel unwell and believe that they may be suffering from COVID-19. Your plan should cover how the person will be dealt with, clean-up operations and contacting the authorities where there is more than one case.

If you have more than one case of COVID-19 in the workplace this must be reported to Public Health England local Health Protection Team (HPT). The SPOC will also be responsible for reporting the suspected outbreak.

You can find your local Health Protection Team at

If you need to send information to the HPT by email regarding an employee, ensure that you send this via an encrypted email. Do not put any personal information in the subject line of the email as this could reveal their personal information.

Sentient Members can find a COVID19 response plan template on the members area of our website.

Remote Workers

If you have employees who conduct work on other employers sites, such as construction sites, or if you have remote workers visiting people in their homes, make sure your risk assessments, methods statements (RAMS) and safe systems of work are up to date and include measures to ensure the effective management of COVID-19.

On construction sites, Principle Contractors will be expecting sub-contractors to have updated their risk assessment to effectively manage COVID before they will allow your employees on their site.

Workers entering people’s homes or multiple business addresses may come into contact with lots of different people and will need to ensure that they strictly adhere to government guidelines in order to prevent transmission of the virus, particularly since there is a risk of coming into contact with asymptomatic carriers.

Make sure remote workers have access to cleaning materials, face masks and sanitiser and that they have been provided with information, instruction and training regarding COVID-19 and the risks associated with their work activities.

Mental Health

It is also extremely important to keep in touch with all workers, including remote workers and home workers, to check whether they are suffering from any mental health effects relating to returning to work or changes associated with the pandemic. Employment has a significant effect on mental health that can be negative or positive which can only be managed through good communication with employees. Managers should have training in managing the mental health of employees and this has become particularly important during the pandemic when managers and employees are experiencing pressure from all direction, both work-related and non-work related.

Members should check the members area of our website for useful documents which can be downloaded, or contact our office by telephone or email to find out how we can help you. 
The advice and comment in this update is not meant to be an authoritative statement of the law. The articles and summaries should not be applied to any specific set of facts and circumstances without seeking further advice. Whilst every care is taken to ensure that the content is correct Sentient cannot accept responsibility for the accuracy of statements made nor the result of any actions taken by individuals after reading such.
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