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Document updated/added on 14.09.2020

Topic: Personnel management

Social distancing reminder memo
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Social distancing reminder memo

Social distancing reminder memo

As the coronavirus lockdown eases, many employees have now returned to their workplaces. Where they have, it’s essential they continue to maintain social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Use our memo to remind them.

Return to work

The current government advice for employers in England is that they must decide whether it’s safe for staff to return to the workplace. So, whilst you should continue to enable working from home, you should ideally also consult with your employees to determine who can come into the workplace safely taking account of their journey, caring responsibilities, protected characteristics and other individual circumstances (and you need to give extra consideration to those at higher risk from coronavirus). However, before anyone returns, you must ensure that you’ve closely followed the government’s “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines that are applicable to your particular type of workplace setting, including conducting a detailed COVID-19 risk assessment.

Social distancing

One of the key themes in the guidelines is social distancing. You should maintain two metres social distancing between staff where possible. Where it’s not possible for staff to be two metres apart, you should do everything practical to manage the transmission risk, e.g. by using screens or barriers to separate staff from each other, using back-to-back or side-to-side working, staggering arrival and departure times and/or using fixed teams.

A gentle reminder

Successful social distancing also requires your employees to co-operate by continuing to fully comply with the measures you’ve introduced. This is where our Social Distancing Reminder Memo comes in. It’s worth issuing this within a few days of staff coming back and then at regular intervals, regardless of whether there’s been any non-compliance with your social distancing rules. Our memo reminds staff about the need to maintain social distancing at all times to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the workplace, and it makes clear that this covers not only when in work but also when arriving at or departing from the workplace and when travelling between sites. We’ve also provided that if anyone sees another employee inadvertently failing to comply with the rules, they should verbally use the phrase “remember social distancing”, and they should report deliberate or persistent rule breaches to their line manager.

Disciplinary action

Given the potentially serious implications of a workplace coronavirus outbreak, you’re within your rights to take disciplinary action against any employee who breaks the social distancing rules. It would probably be unreasonable to do this for an accidental one-off though, so our memo provides that disciplinary action will be taken against anyone who deliberately flouts or persistently fails to abide by the rules. Depending on the severity of the offence, it could be considered as seriously as gross misconduct, so we’ve provided for that too.

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