What to do if an employee refuses to return to work post-lockdown

We’ve got the answers to help you navigate this tricky situation…

BrightHR Team

After twelve weeks of lockdown, it’s natural for your staff to feel nervous about returning to the workplace. But what if they refuse to come back at all?

In the past, you could treat this behaviour as misconduct. But under the current climate, it’s best to tread more carefully.

To help you navigate this tricky situation, we explain your next steps…

    1. Talk to your employee

Find out what’s troubling them so you can help ease their concerns.

Your employee might have an underlying health condition that puts them at risk. Or they might fear catching the bus or train to work. They might even be struggling to find childcare.

Whatever it is, you can’t help to reassure your employee and take action, until you know what’s concerning them.

    2. Put new measures in place

Once you’ve established the main source of your employee’s anxiety, you can then start to put new measures in place to help them feel more comfortable. 

For example, if your employee is concerned about travelling to work, you can think of ways to help them avoid public transport. You could provide additional car parking spaces or bike storage facilities near to your workplace. Or you could stagger shift start and finish times to help staff avoid travelling during rush hour.

It’s also important to tell your employees which social distancing measures you’re putting in place, in line with government guidelines. It could help to reassure your employee if they know that you’ve spread out the tables and chairs or arranged for deep-cleans of the building.

For more information on the measures you should put in place, head to the gov.ie website.

    3. Consider alternatives to coming into work

If, after this, your employee still doesn’t feel comfortable returning to work, it’s time to think of alternative arrangements.

If your employee can work from home, you could consider letting them continue to do this for a set period. After this, you could plan out a phased return to work, where your employee spends one or two days in the workplace, and the rest of their time working from home.

Whatever you do, try not to put unnecessary pressure on your employee to come back before they’re ready. The lockdown has been hard for lots of people in Ireland, and for some, it’s made previous mental health conditions, such as anxiety, harder to manage.

For expert advice on how to sensitively handle an employee’s return to work, call BrightAdvice today on 1800 279 841.