All the rules your employer must now follow as PM tells the nation to return to work

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Boris Johnson has outlined plans to “get Britain back to normal” by November, with social distancing set to end as all workers return to the office this autumn.

The Prime Minister said that from August 1, it will be up to individual businesses to decide whether staff should return to work, as the first wave of furlough changes come into force.

The new guidance will shift away from the current “work from home” slogan and form part of wider plans to get the economy back up again.

He said public transport will be safe again when workers return, with one rail network offering 3-day travel cards to help those returning part time.

But what rules will your employer have to follow when businesses reopen and can you refuse to return to the office?

All offices will have to put measures in place to ensure social distancing when they welcome employees back, including safety screens, arrows and markings to ensure guidelines are adhered to.

The current rule is two metres where possible or one metre in especially small spaces.

Bosses are also expected to limit how many people each person works with by setting up fixed teams or partnering.

Meanwhile, firms should avoid any sharing of workstations, including hot desking where possible.

Before welcoming anyone back, your employer will have to carry out a risk assessment to ensure all guidelines will be kept to. This will include measuring distances between desks and new entry/exit rules.

Bosses are encouraged to share these results with staff, and should consider publishing it on their website.

The government expects all firms with over 50 employees to publish the results online, although companies with fewer than five workers don’t have to write their risk assessment down.

As well as partnering people up accordingly, the government says firms should ensure there’s no overcrowding when offices and businesses reopen – including in lifts and meeting rooms.

In some cases, workers may be asked to carry out half of their shifts from home and the other half from the office.

Workplaces have been told to provide hand sanitiser and increase their cleaning measures, especially in offices, washrooms and on counters.

Every employer must ensure that suitable personal protective equipment is provided to employees who may be exposed to a health and safety risk.

From Friday, July 24, it will be compulsory to wear face masks in shops. It’s currently already the law in hospitals and on public transport.

This means some employers will have to provide PPE by law.

Employers have been told to limit any shouting when they reopen to avoid the spread of coronavirus droplets.

This includes refraining from playing music or broadcasts that may encourage shouting, including if played at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult. 

The problem is that shouting can increase the risk of spreading the coronavirus – the disease is passed on through droplets, such as infected breath and spit, which is more likely to fly out of your mouth and nose when you forcefully raise your voice.

Anyone still classed as extremely vulnerable should not be forced back into the office.

If you’re pregnant or at risk, your workplace should consider allowing you to work from home or make alternative provisions such as changing your shift patterns or even your day-to-day role.

If it can’t do either of these, you should be allowed to remain at home on full pay.

All offices and workplaces should be kept well ventilated to ensure the spread of fresh air.

Where possible, meetings should be held digitally, outdoors or in well-ventilated rooms.

The UK government has exempted some countries from its advice against all non-essential international travel.

If you travel abroad to a country that is not in the exempt list you will be required to self-isolate for 14 days on your return to the UK.

Any arrangements to cover the quarantine period should be clear, understood and agreed by both you and your employer before you go on a holiday that will require quarantine on return.

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