Staff engagement and consultation during COVID-19
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Let us help you 

If you are an organisation currently preparing to go back to work, or maybe you are already back and are worried about the safety of either yourself or your employees, then let us help you.  Use the Request Support button on this page to contact us for help and either a member of the Healthy Working Lives team or one of our Mentors will contact you  to assist.

Staff Engagement


Engaging your staff in preparing to return to work

As you begin to plan to return to work, it’s important that you take the time to involve your workforce in understanding the potential issues and identifying solutions in reducing the risk of transmission of the virus in the workplace, and agree on the best ways to implement these.

Why I should engage my staff in consultation

There are many reasons to engage your staff in planning their return to work.  Employees might have concerns and anxieties about the safety of returning and as their employer, taking the time to listen, understand, share and work together to address issues should make for a more seamless, quicker and safer return for all.

Consulting with your staff, and including them in decisions about their new working day, will help to re-build relationships that may have lessened during lockdown and your staff will have more confidence in their return.

Explain how the business plans to reopen or continue operating whilst ensuring the safety of all of its staff.  Listen to their questions and concerns, and encourage suggestions and solutions.  Discuss the options and their implementation and agree on a process to implement a safe return.

It makes good sense at this time and there is also a legal duty on employers to engage with and consult employees or their representatives on “changes in the workplace that could substantially affect their health and safety”.

You can consult employees directly, or depending on the size of your organisation you may wish to consult via their health and safety representative, Trade Union representative or another mechanism for this purpose.


How should I consult with my staff

Conversations should be two way, explaining how the business plans to reopen, listening to employees/representatives concerns and suggestions and reaching a position where the business can begin to operate safely.  We have developed a toolkit with templates to help facilitate conversations. 

Staff who are shielding will still need to remain at home. These staff and any employees who may be considered as vulnerable, should be consulted on a more personal level to help determine how and when they can safely return to work. 

The way that you communicate with your staff will vary from organisation to organisation and be dependent on your size and set up.  Some useful tips are included below:

  • Make sure that you are able to reach all employees, think about those without access to internet or smart phones.
  • Ensure important updates reach all employees, this may involve more than one method of communication from texts to mobile phones, use of landline calls and written letters to home postal addresses.
  • Consider how to involve those working on different premises, shifts or work patterns, full and part time and those self-employed that work for you regularly.
  • Think about accessibility issues, for instance language barriers or visual impairments and how you might address these with translators or other support services.
  • Do you have a staff intranet that can be accessed by staff at home that could be used to consult.
  • Where possible use telephone or video conferencing (such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom) which can be accessed on laptops, tablets and smart phones.
  • Update employees through email, making sure that the information shared is timely, accurate and factual. Some email providers have a voting option built in, you can use this option to quickly capture views on simple questions.
  • You could consider setting up a workplace WhatsApp group if your employees have smart phones. Remember that WhatsApp is widely used for social messaging and some people might prefer to keep their social lives and work separate.


How to carryout meetings

Meetings should be carried out remotely as it is the easiest way to keep you and your staff safe.  If this is not possible and a face to face meeting is required, then as with all work activities a risk assessment should be carried out with the aim of eliminating, reducing and controlling the risk of exposure and spread of COVID-19.  Here are some measures that you can put in place:

  • Make sure that only absolutely necessary meeting participants attend, keep a record of participants in case tracing is needed
  • All attendees should be at least two metres apart from each other
  • Hold meetings in open areas where possible
  • If an open area isn’t possible the room should be well ventilated, for example by opening windows to allow fresh air to circulate
  • Consider holding more than one meeting to reduce numbers attending at any one time
  • Start and end the meeting reminding attendees to follow basic hygiene regimes, including respiratory


Suggestions for topics to be discussed

Applying social distancing rules will be different for each workplace, it is therefore important that you listen to those carrying out the daily tasks to understand what is a realistic and safe expectation.  Examples of common control measures can be found on our planning a return to work pages.

The list below is not exhaustive but provides a starting point for some of the issues that you could discuss with employees:

  • Remind staff that the reduction of risk of transmission relies on everyone taking responsibility for their actions and behaviours. Make sure that everyone understands and agrees to participate in the new ways of working.
  • Improving hand hygiene, cleaning regimes and minimising contact around the workplace. For example provision of additional hand cleaning facilities to ensure compliance with COVID-19 guidance.
  • Changes to the layout of the workplace to allow social distancing between employees.
  • How staff may need to stay in and work in designated teams of groups.
  • Possible changes to shift patterns, allowing for staggered start and finish times (to reduce congestion on public transport, at entrances/exits, canteens, and breaks). You should discuss whether these changes are practicable, for example is there public transport available at different times.
  • Discuss any new processes around the use of welfare facilities, such as toilets, showers, changing and locker rooms, canteen and rest areas  - limited and or staggered access could maybe be considered.
  • Changes to first aid cover and procedures to ensure that employees understand how to access first aid facilities whilst applying social distancing when possible.
  • What to do if a member of staff displays symptoms of COVID-19 in the workplace.
  • Changes to fire and evacuation processes may be required. You should highlight any changes to previous practice and the need for retraining and practice,  for example alternative ways of evacuating the building to allow for social distancing and making sure that everyone understands their role.
  • Clarity might be needed around the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the use of face covering in the workplace.  PPE should be a last resort and shouldn’t be used as a substitute for social distancing.


Help and Support

The situation is changing regularly so it is really important that you continue to engage with your staff to check that your arrangements are working and that you review your risk assessments on a regular basis.

Further, more detailed information on consulting with you staff can be found on the Health and Safety Executive site at:

HSE: Worker Consultation and Involvement (external site)

HSE: Talking to your Workers during Coronavirus (external site)


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