At the end of February, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced a four-stage plan to lift lockdown restrictions and get the country back to a state of normality. This plan falls inline with the roll-out of the UK vaccination programme.
The lockdown restriction removal is designed to keep UK residents safe, whilst the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine is distributed amongst the public. Four conditions must be met at each stage before proceeding to the next one:
- The coronavirus vaccine programme continues to go to plan.
- Vaccines are sufficiently reducing the number of people dying with the virus or needing hospital treatment.
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospital admissions.
- New coronavirus variants do not fundamentally change the risk of lifting restrictions.
If all goes as expected, all legal limits on social contact will be removed on 21 June 2021. This coincides with the governments' expectation of giving everyone in the UK their first vaccination injections by the end of June.
Unfortunately, June is a few months on the horizon. This presents businesses new issues of managing an unvaccinated workforce as they return to the office during the upcoming months. In this blog, we explore how you can manage your workforce whilst they wait for the COVID vaccination.
Risks of an unvaccinated workforce returning to the office
Although the government announced the plans to lift lockdown restrictions and get the country back to a state of normality, the threat of Coronavirus is still very much at large until an individual receives their first vaccination.
This threat can pose a substantial risk to a business when returning employees to the office. These include:
- Workers falling ill
- The workforce being depleted
- The workforce becoming unhappy
- Workers losing trust in a business
Workers falling ill
First and foremost, an unvaccinated employee returning to the office has a high chance of catching the virus and becoming extremely ill. By making them leave the safety of their home, you are increasing the likeliness of them encountering an infected person.
As an employer, you have an obligation to create a safe environment for your workforce. It is your duty to do all you can to mitigate the risk of them coming in contact with the virus and subsequently becoming ill.
The workforce being depleted
The Coronavirus is a highly contagious and easily spreadable virus. If you ask your workforce to return to your offices, you run the risk of a large percentage of the workers catching the virus or needing to isolate. This is a highly likely scenario if an infected individual works on-site.
The workforce becoming unhappy
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, there has been a newfound need for employers to be flexible and adapt to the needs of their employees. This flexibility for many has been a key factor in ensuring a happy work environment.
By asking people to come back to the office, without managing the risks associated, you may create a situation where valuable workers become unhappy.
Workers losing trust in a business
If you are not seen to be managing the COVID-19 response in a proper and efficient manner, you run a high risk of losing the trust of your workers. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, it has become essential that the employer follow the government guidelines and best practices.
With these risks associated with asking your workforce to return to the office, how can you manage your unvaccinated employees until June?
How to manage an unvaccinated workforce
As an employer you have a legal obligation to create a safe environment for anyone working at your office. During the upcoming months, it is your duty to manage the risks associated with unvaccinated workers. But how do you do this?
COVID-19 virus testing
COVID-19 virus testing is essential in the fight against Coronavirus. A virus test will identify whether a member of staff has COVID-19 at that moment. This will allow you to isolate any potential threats of contamination across your workers.
Virus tests work by collecting saliva from the nose and/or your mouth. This saliva is then used to test for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Any member of staff that test positively for the SARS-CoV-2 has a legal duty to self-isolate. This was introduced by the government to stop the spread of the virus. This means that they will no longer be able to physically work on the premises until the isolation period has ended.
Below are the things you should consider as an employer when rolling out virus testing:
- Setting common testing standards
- Communicating your intentions to staff
- Selecting and procuring test kits
- Distributing test results
COVID-19 virus testing can be influential in helping manage unvaccinated workers as it provides you will real-time data. This data will help you understand:
- Who has the virus
- What percentage of your workforce has the virus
- What departments are most affected.
As well as providing you with valuable data, COVID-19 virus testing also gives you a clear understanding of who is contagious and therefore who should not be in the office. By separating anyone who tests positive, you can stop the virus spreading through the office.
Check out our other blog on COVID-19 testing for more information. (ADD LINK TO OTHER BLOG)
Managing an unvaccinated workforce
Although it will be difficult to protect all members of staff, it is your obligation to put measures in place to help stop the spread of the virus throughout your workforce whilst they wait to receive the first COVID-19 vaccine.
COVID-19 virus testing is a brilliant way to quickly identify potential threats and keep the majority of your workers safe whilst in the office.