How to Manage Phased Return to Work After COVID-19 Lockdown

By Fiona Burns
04 Jun 2020

The end to the coronavirus lockdown for your company is in sight. However, that doesn’t mean business will be back to normal any time soon.

Even those of you who’ll welcome employees back over the next few weeks will have a new set of challenges on your hands.

If you haven’t started planning, this article is a good place to start. Alternatively, you can call us on 01455 858 132 for guidance on any questions you may have.

Planning a phased return to work due to coronavirus

The first, and best, thing you can do now is plan. That’s not just good advice either. If your business has over 50 employees, it’s a legal requirement to publish your risk assessment results.

Why? The main reason for a phased return to work is due to health & safety concerns at work. COVID-19 hasn’t been eliminated, nor is there a vaccine at the time of writing.

That means precautions need to be put in place to prevent the risk of a second outbreak.

So, you need to plan. The best way to do that is through a risk assessment. However, as coronavirus poses unique risks you need to tailor your approach.

How to manage a phased return to work after COVID-19 lockdown

First, you need to determine whether it’s worth bringing back employees at all. At least until the situation improves. You can do this by asking three questions:

  1. Is it essential?
  2. Is it sufficiently safe?
  3. Is it agreed?

The first point echoes the Government’s line of, “Those who can work from home should continue to do so.”

If your workers are absolutely needed on-site, then you can argue their return to work is essential.

The second point we’ll cover in a moment when we discuss risk assessments.

The third point is important because if your employee doesn’t agree that the workplace is sufficiently safe, they may refuse to come into work.

It may be possible to pursue a disciplinary route at this stage.

But, a safer route is to negotiate with the employee, potentially agreeing a period of unpaid leave or lay off instead.

Planning a return to work after furlough

The Job Retention Scheme has been vital in keeping many businesses afloat. Now, as the lockdown eases, you’ll need to start planning ahead for those individuals on furlough who’ll need to come back to work.

As previously stated, furlough lasts for a minimum of three weeks. That means you can’t bring someone back to work during that time, even if you really need them in the office.

The next thing to consider is part-time furlough which is currently due to come in to place as of 1st July 2020.

This may change depending on the state of COVID-19 in the UK, but it seems unlikely now as of June 2020.

However, if all goes to plan, this may mean you can have employees in work for some days of the week, while remaining on furlough for the other half of the week.

Give yourself enough time to introduce furloughed employees back into the workplace as normal. That way, if part-time furlough is available, you’ll be make the most of it.

Phased return to work pay

So, we’ve covered the health & safety and HR sides of a return to work after COVID-19. But what about pay?

Well, those coming off furlough should immediately begin receiving normal pay.

Ensure your payroll provider is aware of who is coming off furlough (and when), so they can prepare for this.

If anyone coming back is on reduced hours, ensure that they’re receiving the correct rate of pay based on their full hours, and that it doesn’t dip below the national minimum wage (NMW).

Expert support

If you need extra support during this time, whether it’s with health & safety, HR, or pay matters, speak to a Croner expert today on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Fiona Burns

Fiona Burns has practical experience in Health & Safety and Risk Management having worked for major insurer prior to joining Croner.

She has gained extensive helpline experience offering competent advice and timely support to large number of clients, in various industries and at all levels.  Completed the NEBOSH General Certificate, also passed NEBOSH Environmental Diploma Unit A, (IOSH Managing Environmental responsibilities). NEBOSH Fire and Risk Management Certificate, FPA Advance Fire Training, NCRQ Diploma – Distinction currently completing IPD and volunteering for Community project in Atherstone also as a Dementia support worker with CWPT.


Fiona Burns

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