With the government now actively encouraging people to go into work where it is safe to do so, businesses will need to consider how to ensure their workplaces are safe.
BDO are rumored to be planning to test each of its 5,500 staff every two weeks. Are we about to see employers enter into arms race to show who has the safest working environment?
Demonstrating that their workplace is safe will be only one hurdle in employers winning the confidence of staff and the support of their unions. Businesses can, to an extent, control their own premises and, with the support of their landlords, the communal areas of buildings. However, this does not address how people get to work in the first place, especially in large cities dependent on mass transit. Nor does it help working parents who, until schools and nurseries reopen, will have to continue to juggle childcare and full time jobs from home.
Testing also comes with its own challenges. There have been well documented concerns about the reliability of some testing kits and it will raise employment issues in relation to privacy, consent and data protection. But perhaps more concerning, could it lead to a false sense of security? Like with temperature scanning it may result in a 'wait and see' mentality, whereby a symptomatic employee may continue to come to work until they are told not to.
Before the return to the office can begin, businesses need to establish that they can make their workplaces safe. Will testing staff play a part in this? Wait and see.
The boss of one London-based law firm said he was considering conducting regular testing of staff “if it was cost-effective”. Another law firm said it would install thermometers in its offices to take employees’ temperatures when the lockdown ended