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  • Writer's pictureRichard Nichols

Return to work guidance

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

In light of eased lockdown restrictions, the CIPD has revised its guidance on planning a return to work.

Employers are urged to plan and implement a return to work that cares for their people and safeguards their health. According to the guidance, any plan should include a commitment to support flexible, remote, and hybrid working where possible.

The campaign

CIPD's Flex From 1st campaign aims to ensure more equal access to flexible working arrangements. Employers are encouraged to support flexible work for all and to make flexible work requests from day one of employment. It also calls for changes to UK law so that flexible working requests are an employee right from the outset. A key part of this campaign is to encourage employers to build on the period of remote working and to adapt and learn how to make hybrid working a success, rather than forcing employees to return to their workplace when COVID-19 risks have passed.


Employers must take an individualised approach to ensure the wellbeing of their employees once the Government advice to work from home ends, as well as monitoring government guidance for future guidance. Despite falling COVID cases, employers still have a duty to ensure the workplace is safe for employees to return to, according to the latest Government guidance. Continuing social distancing measures, rearranging workspaces and public areas, possibly altering working hours to reduce exposure risks, and improving ventilation may be part of this process. As well as listening to employee concerns, employers should also take into account travel concerns.

As long as Government guidance does not change, employers should encourage their people to continue to work from home wherever possible.

The focus will be on health and safety and compliance with COVID-secure guidelines during the period of planning and managing a return to work. However, employers should also start considering their longer-term plans with regards to implementing more flexibility in working arrangements.

Short-term plans for returning to the workplace must take into account the following factors:

  • size and nature of the workplace

  • the number of vulnerable staff or those who live with vulnerable people

  • caring responsibilities

  • public transport dependency

  • local and wider outbreaks.

In addition, the CIPD recommended that employers ought to have as their guiding principle the protection of their employees' health and wellbeing. Businesses need to engage their employees in discussions about their return to work to know how they feel.

It goes on to cover:

  • risk assessments

  • health and safety measures

  • testing and vaccination

  • role of line managers

  • supporting furloughed workers

  • wellbeing

  • longer-term planning: looking to the future

  • hybrid working

  • end of the furlough scheme

  • international business

  • potential conflict

  • equality, inclusion and fairness

  • bereavement

  • holiday

  • communication

  • role of line managers.

Communication with the workforce is highlighted as being crucial when it comes to keeping employees informed about what a business is doing.


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