Employment law guidance for returning to the office

New guidance released today by the Law Society of England and Wales aims to help law firms get staff safely back to the office or to keep working from home.

The guide, which is applicable to offices and other workspaces more widely, looks at the employment law and health and safety considerations employers will need to be aware of as employees return to the office or continue to work from home.

“For as long as coronavirus remains a virus that is easily spread within our population, while also causing significant medical problems to a large group of people, working practices will need to flexible,” said Law Society president Simon Davis.

“Workspaces that used to be assumed safe, such as offices, are now considered places that may enable a high rate of transmission unless the right safeguards and policies are put in place.

“Everyday activities, such as commuting on public transport or making coffee in the office kitchen, have greater public health considerations than prior to the pandemic.

“This guidance is designed to help employers understand how the legal framework could apply to managing workforces while coronavirus poses a danger to the public’s health.”

There may be different rules and regulations in place in Wales, where the devolved administration has responsibility for public health.

For example, in Wales employers are under a specific legal obligation to take all reasonable steps to enable social distancing within the workplace.

Topics covered in the guidance include:

  • Can firms be liable if an employee contracts COVID-19 at work?
  • Can staff demand to come into the office or can a worker refuse to come into the office if they think it is unsafe?
  • Is it an employer’s responsibility to take in to account the risks involved in employees travelling to the office?
  • Do employers need to make special adjustments for those the government deem to be particularly vulnerable to coronavirus?
  • Do employers need to provide PPE?
  • Can employers insist employees download the NHS app?
  • Can employers ask workers to inform them if they have coronavirus?
  • Are employers obliged to fund an employee’s home office set-up?

Notes to Editors

See the guidance

The guide is part of the Law Society’s safe return to the office toolkit for firms.

The Law Society’s guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has also been updated.

About the Law Society

The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.

Press office contact: Nick Mayo | nick.mayo@lawsociety.org.uk | 020 8049 4100