4 in 10 people anxious about returning to the workplace as government prepares to publish guidance

Government must have a ‘people first’ approach to coronavirus working safely guidance says the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development

44 per cent of employees agreed they felt anxious about returning to their workplace because of Covid-19 according to a new survey published by the CIPD. 

The survey, a sample of 1,000 employees, carried out by YouGov for the CIPD, highlights the need for businesses to be thinking about their people in every decision they make and ensure their concerns are addressed in the return to the workplace. Consequently, the CIPD believes it is crucial that the Government’s working safely guidance for employers recognises the legitimate concerns many workers will have about a return to the workplace. The guidance needs to provide clarity on key employer obligations on health and safety and employment rights and highlight that businesses should put their people and their concerns first when returning workers to the workplace. 

Ahead of the government’s announcement on Sunday, Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said: 

“The Government’s draft employer guidance on working safely during COVID-19 does not sufficiently recognise that many individuals will not feel safe enough to return to the workplace due to concerns for their own safety or others they are close to. Returning should be mutually agreed and employers should go out of their way to ensure individuals’ concerns are addressed. Employers must bring people back gradually, when required, and learn from each person’s experience, building employees’ trust in the business to treat them well. 

“The CIPD also wants employers to understand and be prepared that this guidance will really test their legal duty of care to keep workers safe from physical harm and the need to continue to meet individuals’ employment rights. This phase for employers will be unique and more complicated to navigate than lockdown as there will be many judgements to make, all that will need to have people at the centre.” 

The CIPD is urging businesses to work closely with their employees through open, transparent communication and consultation when looking at a return to the workplace. Decisions should not be rushed and a mutual understanding between employer and employee should be reached. This approach will result minimise the inherent risk of conflict and stress with so many uncertainties, and increase respect and trust between both parties. 

The CIPD’s survey showed: 

  • 44 per cent of employees agreed they felt anxious about returning to their workplace because of Covid-19 and 37 per cent disagreed they were anxious about returning.  
  • 31 per cent were anxious about commuting to work, in contrast to just over half (54 per cent) that weren’t anxious about the commute. However, those based in London were far more likely than other parts of the UK to have concerns about this, with 52 per cent saying they were anxious about commuting to work because of COVID-19.  

The CIPD has set out five key principles that employers should follow when planning, as well as the implications regarding health and safety and employment rights they need to consider. Find out more here.  

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