We just never saw this coming…

These are the words I heard over and over from clients when helping them react to the immediate situation we all found ourselves in back in March.

7 weeks later and in anticipation of the eventual lifting of restrictions, NI employers should be utilising this time to plan how we are going to respond to our employees returning to work with a return to work plan.

I have outlined below some considerations which should then be included in your plan so you are prepared:

Health & Safety

  • How will you ensure the health & safety of your staff and other 3rd parties who may be affected?
    • Have you completed a risk assessment?
    • Are handwashing and sanitising facilities adequate?
    • Will appropriate PPE be available?
    • Are there additional procedures required before allowing employees to return to work following illness?
    • How will health & safety be monitored and enforced?
  • How can your workplace be adapted to ensure you are able to comply with social distancing requirements?
    • Do you need to rearrange the workspace or erect Perspex dividers?

Flexible Working

  • How can flexible working help ease some of the health & safety pressures as well as alleviating employee concerns?
    • Can you consider staggering hours to minimise staff numbers?
    • Are some employees able to continue to work from home?
  • How will meetings and business and business travel be managed?


  • Is your current level of communication with your team sufficient?
    • Consider what you need to communicate as well as how and when you should do so
    • Do you need to draft any new policies to deal with this situation?
  • What training do your line managers require to ensure consistency?

Employee Relations

  • What happens when the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme levels of support reduces or ceases to exist altogether?
    • What will your people requirements be in the short, medium and longer term
    • Does your contract of employment allow for temporary lay-off or short-time working?
    • How will you manage a reduction in headcount in the unfortunate event that it should become necessary?
  • How will you manage absence or employee concerns over returning to work?

Obviously these are just headline considerations but I hope you will find it of help. If you feel you would benefit from some support in drafting a full plan, please do contact me on 07525095277 or [email protected]

To keep up to date with all of our news stories, click here and make sure to follow us on our social media channels: Facebook, Instagram & LinkedIn to keep up to date with all of our news.

Covid-19 Return to Work Plan | Opal People Solutions