When the government lockdown was first announced on March 23, 2020, the rush was on for businesses throughout the UK to find safe, efficient means of enabling their staff to work from home. From practical operations to mental health to physical wellbeing, the range of challenges facing businesses was extensive, and the consequence of not being able to meet these challenges severe.
The shutdown in the UK is now gradually easing, and, for many businesses, the question now is how to transition a workforce, which has spent over four months working remotely, back into a more traditional workspace. A recent report by Marsh on the subject of ‘Returning People to the Workplace Safely’ issued a practical guide on managing this aspect of the COVID-19 crisis.
Speaking with Insurance Business, a key contributor of this report, Darren Holmes (pictured), head of operational risk, UK & Ireland at Marsh, highlighted the importance of businesses understanding their exposures and outlined his key tips on how businesses can protect themselves at this crucial time.
Businesses must fully understand the extent of the exposures they could potentially face as employees return to their places of work for several reasons, he said. These range from regulatory requirements which must be fulfilled to keep people safe, to insurance implications such as claims resulting from people with pre-existing conditions returning to work after lockdown.
“From a client perspective, he said, “confidence in the business’s brand, products and services is key to a successful restart. Understanding the exposures and mitigating proactively against them will go a long way to quickly rebuilding this confidence.”
Holmes outlined how Marsh has introduced a variety of ways to support its clients as they prepare for a return to work. Looking through an insurance lens, he said, Marsh Risk Consulting is actively working with clients to strengthen their claims defensibility processes in light of potential COVID-19 related claims whether caused as a result of lockdown, such as working from home and exacerbated pre-existing conditions, or due to a return to work and concerns over safety and mental health.
“From a regulatory perspective,” he said, “we are supporting clients by reviewing policies and procedures in relation to health and safety and government guidelines to protect employees and members of the public, and helping navigate the guidance as we work towards reducing lockdown restrictions.”
There are, Holmes said, nine main tips he would like to share with employers as they plan to return their staff to the workplace.
- Review and understand the guidance provided by government and public health bodies.
- Consider industry trade bodies as a source of guidance and good practice measures to keep employees and members of the public safe.
- Keep in mind that guidance from public health bodies is a minimum standard.
- Review health and safety procedures and controls, including risk assessments, to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.
- Consider a review of security, particularly in relation to GDPR regulations. With less people on site, maintaining pre lockdown standards may be more challenging on return.
- The mental health and wellbeing of your workforce should be paramount. Look to reassure employees that their safety and wellbeing is your priority; people will be anxious about returning to work for many reasons.
- Ensure that the procedures and controls implemented are monitored and maintained.
- Effective communication is essential. Keep people up to date on the workplace and involve people in the decision-making process.
- Finally, keep records of inspections, training and communications.