A leading health and safety body has warned that a badly thought-out return to work could spell financial disaster for businesses.
The government and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have developed detailed guidance on how different workplaces can be reopened safely, to allow those who cannot work from home to return to the workplace.
But the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has warned businesses not to rush the process and it says that if the guidelines are not strictly adhered to, they could face legal proceedings.
Dr Karen McDonnell, RoSPA's occupational safety and health policy adviser, said: "It's so important that businesses follow [the government guidelines] and get their employees' return to work right, not just for the health and wellbeing of their staff and the wider community, but also for their financial future.
"Get it wrong, and there could be serious repercussions for the bottom line, either in the event of an outbreak happening or the organisation becoming known for having a lax attitude to safety. And let's not forget that health and safety is all about people - enabling workers and others to go home to their loved ones safe and healthy at the end of each day. This should be at the forefront of employers' minds."
Dr McDonnell has urged employers and other organisations not to rush the process. She said: "It's vital we all get this right … any organisations thinking of cutting corners should heed this warning. You may also be risking criminal and civil proceedings as a result of any poor practice."
RoSPA has developed an at-cost review service for organisations looking to reassure themselves about their preparations for returning to work. The COVID-19 Back-to-Work Review costs £184 and includes a site visit by a RoSPA expert. Participating businesses that follow the guidelines will be given a RoSPA-branded certificate of compliance for display.
Errol Taylor, RoSPA chief executive, said: "Our new COVID-19 Back-to-Work Review will give employers confidence to open their doors, and employees and members of the public peace of mind as they step through them."
Written by Rachel Miller.