A survey by The Skills Network, an online training provider, has found that the majority of people in full or part-time employment are concerned about returning to work. This comes after the UK government has eased lockdown measures and asked people who are unable to work from home to return to work.
A total of 331 individuals in full or part-time employment in the UK were asked a range of questions relating to returning to work. The aim of the research is to understand whether people are happy to follow government advice and return to work.
One respondent, who is a furloughed retail worker for a non-essential business that has stores across the country, expressed their feelings on returning to work:
“I am worried that the business I work for is rushing to re-open. We haven’t heard much from management or head office on whether PPE will be provided or if social distancing will be adhered to.
On top of this, I’m reliant on public transport to get to and from work. I don’t want to go back to a daily routine just yet and even more so when I’m not comfortable mixing with co-workers and customers if there isn’t going to be the necessary PPE needed.”
What are the biggest concerns people have about returning to work?
- Mixing with co-workers (49%)
- Communicating face-to-face (32%)
- Going back to a set routine (30%)
- Commuting (30%)
- Dealing with office politics (13%)
- Having to look presentable (9%)
Do employees have to return to work, despite their concern?
Kathleen Heycock, a solicitor specialising in employment law at Farrer & Co, explains that employees are “not obliged to work in an unsafe work environment.” If an employer has not complied with the obligation to protect the health and safety of employees, there will come a point when telling people to attend to work is not a lawful and reasonable request.
“The Employment Rights Act 1996 gives employees the right, in theory, to refuse to attend work in unsafe environments, as well as provides them with protection from being dismissed or treated to their detriment as a result.”
What are employers doing to ease concerns?
The Skills Network (TSN) have seen many employers endeavour to alleviate employee concerns by engaging staff in key training during the current lockdown.
TSN has seen 20% increase in businesses purchasing online content in areas such as stress and anxiety management, mental health awareness and line management training – to help employees manage their wellbeing during lockdown and prepare them to re-enter the workplace.