Supporting staff back into the workplace

New health & safety measures make your business COVID-secure, but the changes can be intimidating for staff. Let’s look at ways to ease the transition from home to the workplace.

Monday, Jul 26, 2021
2 min read

As provinces across Canada are lifting lockdowns, lots of employers are starting to bring staff back into the workplace. But the workplace looks different than it did before COVID-19.

Floor markings for social distancing. Hand sanitising stations. One-way systems. We keep hearing the term “the new normal”—but there’s nothing normal about all these new measures.

Your staff needs to know about these new health and safety measures to prevent the spread of the virus. But also, to help them feel comfortable in this new work environment.

All these changes could, understandably, make them feel a bit intimidated or anxious about coming back to work.

What should employers do?

It is important that you communicate your new health and safety measures and policies to your staff. Holding ‘induction training’ for employees returning to the workplace may be a good idea.

Set up a one-to-one meeting with staff returning to the workplace and discuss all the measures that might affect the employee’s role. This is your opportunity to discuss all the changes to the workplace, show your staff your workplace COVID health and safety precautions, and address any concerns they might have about coming back to work.

Areas to consider in your meeting

  • When your employee might return to work
  • Your employee’s use of public transport
  • How health & safety is being reviewed and managed
  • Sharing your COVID-19 risk assessment results
  • Workplace adjustments, such as additional hand washing facilities, one-way systems, staggered start and finish times, floor markings, hand sanitising stations, etc.
  • If there will be a phased return of the workforce
  • Arrangements for flexible working and working from home.
  • New policies and procedures (for example, what will happen if a staff member has COVID-19).

What if an employee doesn’t want to come back to work?

Hopefully, your meeting should reassure staff that you’ve taken every reasonable measure to make your workplace as safe as possible. But in the current climate, some staff might still worry about returning to work.

People might not want to come back because they’re worried about catching the virus or are at a high risk of getting a severe illness if they are infected. Another reason could be that they are caring for children or living with someone who is part of the vulnerable population (elderly or immune compromised).

Practical steps you can take

As an employer, you should listen carefully to any concerns staff may have and take the necessary steps to further protect your people where possible. For example, you could:

  • Offer extra car parking so people can avoid using public transport
  • Supply masks for journeys for people who use public transport
  • Amend employees’ working hours so they can avoid travelling during peak times

What if they still don’t want to come back?

If an employee still doesn’t want to return to work, you might be able to arrange for them to work from home. If that’s not possible, your employee could take the time off as holiday or unpaid leave.

However, this isn’t a long-term solution. If any employee refuses to return to work despite you proving that you’ve made your workplace safe against COVID risks, you could take disciplinary action against them—but this should always be a last resort.

Not a BrightHR customer yet?

To learn more about how our software can help you manage your business and staff during the pandemic, call us today: (1) 888-220-4924.


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