Every time Boris makes a speech, clients ask for a steer on ‘when they can return to the office?’ This time around the office wasn’t really mentioned. However, if you go to this website, any specific updates are posted on a regular basis (this will save the team a few HR consulting hours!).

At the moment the message is still the same and any updates are around ordering rapid lateral flow tests, to test employees with no coronavirus symptoms. We know schools will reopen on 8th March, restaurants and pub gardens will be allowed to serve customers sitting outdoors, (including alcohol) – and you can get a haircut.

We’ve heard the government say it will “do whatever it takes” to protect jobs and Rishi will present his Budget next week but still no change on the advice for returning to the office?

Unfortunately, we don’t know when the order to work from home will be reviewed or whether the government’s ‘hope’ of removing all restrictions from 21st June turn into reality. It all depends on the data.

So, what can employers do to prepare? 

Unfortunately, not as much as we would like. Despite the pace of the vaccine programme, most employees are still required to work from home. However, where this isn’t feasible, employees can attend the office provided that robust Covid risk assessments have been carried out in their workplace and policies are in place. Free Covid-19 testing kits will be available for workplaces up until the end of June although testing remains voluntary. 

One bonus – for employers as well as parents – is the reopening of schools. This should ease the burden for parents and carers who have had to juggle work and home schooling as well as reducing the impact of childcare on employees’ working patterns. Employers should take the opportunity to discuss with employees how these changes can best be accommodated.

The likelihood of travel restrictions being lifted has done a great deal for morale but may prove problematic for employers. With bookings up 500% in 24 hours, employers may have to choose between being short-staffed or having to refuse holiday requests. Now is the time to look at manpower planning or your offices may not need to be open in summer as there will be no staff….