If you’re anything like me, you’ve definitely got an ear to the ground for the inevitable leaks that’ll come from the government ahead of Boris’ big speech on Monday.
And as things start to ease, there’ll definitely be challenges for employers.
There’s one particular challenge we’re already getting a lot of questions about:
“If staff prefer to work from home, can I ask them to return after lockdown?”
The answer is a pretty unequivocal “yes”.
As ‘working from home’ was always a temporary arrangement for most employees, you’re well within your rights to ask them to return to their usual way of working.
If they do want to continue from home, then the onus is on them to make a “flexible working request”; something that all staff with 26 weeks + service can do.
Then you’ll need to go through a process of evaluating whether they could work from home, perhaps looking a ‘meet in the middle’ compromise.
For some employers, this could work well – lots of business owners have re-assessed their office space and come to the conclusion it can be reduced (or even eliminated) by having their team work from home – but you don’t have to go down that route.
What about the vaccine?
Some of the questions we had in were complicated by the fact that some employees are reticent to get the vaccine, and as a result, want to continue working from home.
As we discussed last week, you CAN’T make employees get the vaccine.
You do have to make sure that your workplace meets the social distancing and personal protective equipment requirements set by the government, and you will need to carry out a thorough risk assessment and implement all reasonable safety measures.
As long as you’ve done that, and communicated it to them fully, then you CAN insist that they come back in, even if they feel they are at risk because they refused the vaccine.
If they still refuse to come in, you can put them onto unpaid leave and invite them to a disciplinary for unauthorised absence and refusing a reasonable management instruction.
Coming out of lockdown is going to be unusual for many of us, even if we are desperate to go back to “normal”, so try to err on the side of empathy in your communications, rather than going in heavy-handed from day one.
Encourage staff to talk to you about any concerns they have, and try to resolve them together.
And of course, if you need any help, you know where we are.