Employees returning to work after COVID-19 diagnosis

Stephanie Byrne-Roche

August 18 2020

Illness and absence affect every employer and employee. They’re part and parcel of business life.

And in recent months, they’ve become increasingly relevant due to the coronavirus.

If one of your employees received a recent COVID-19 diagnosis and has since made a full recovery, it’s important to manage their return to work carefully.

Who should not return to the workplace?

First and foremost, as advised by the HSE, an employee should not return to work if they:

  • Display coronavirus symptoms.
  • Are self-isolating or restricting their movements.
  • Have not spoken with you before going back to the workplace.

All vulnerable or ‘high risk’ and ‘very high risk’ employees should continue working from home. These employees may have underlying conditions or have undergone particular surgeries in the past.

If you do allow employees to continue to work from home, there are homeworking risks to be mindful of.

Before the employee returns to work

Before an employee returns to work after a COVID-19-related illness, you should ask for confirmation from the employee’s GP certifying that they are fit to return to work and it is safe for them to do so.

You should also try to gain a full understanding of their situation. For instance, you should enquire as to whether there are any coronavirus-related issues you should know about.

Under the Return to Work Safely Protocol, you must also provide the employee with a pre-return to work form. This form should be given to the employee to complete at least three days before they return to work.

The form should ask the following questions:

  • Do you have symptoms of cough, fever, high temperature, sore throat, runny nose, breathlessness, or flu like symptoms now or in the past 14 days? Yes/No.
  • Have you been diagnosed with a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection in the last 14 days? Yes/No.
  • Are you a close contact of a person who is a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days (i.e. less than 2m for more than 15 minutes accumulative in one day)? Yes/No.
  • Have you been advised by a doctor to self-isolate at this time? Yes/No.
  • Have you been advised by a doctor to cocoon at this time? Yes/No.

If the answer to any of these questions is Yes, the employee should stay away from the workplace.

Data protection

You also have employer data protection obligations around return to work forms to consider. Check the legal basis for processing data relating to an employee’s health to ensure sensitive employee data is processed in line with GDPR. All such data must be kept secure and confidential.

Protecting employees in the workplace

It’s essential that you implement the measures outlined in the Government’s Return to Work Safely Protocol. These are mandatory measures that every employer must adhere to.

While there are measures that employees need to be aware of, it’s also useful to remind them to:

  • Maintain social distancing rules.
  • Wash their hands regularly.
  • Follow hygiene advice when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean workspaces and commonly used, shared surfaces.

Managing the vaccine rollout in your business

Our new software VaccTrak will help you keep track of who’s had the COVID-19 vaccine in your business.

VaccTrak allows you to:

  • Update your employee profiles to easily record who’s had the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Download regular reports to see exactly who’s been vaccinated, so you can keep your people safe during the vaccine roll-out.
  • Download professional letter templates to encourage your staff to have the vaccine.

Access our exclusive vaccine awareness course. Share it with your staff to educate them on the vaccine and answer any complex questions.

Need our help?

For advice on any HR or health & safety issue, speak with one of our experts today on 0818 923 923.

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