Businesses should start to prepare a Return to Work Plan including a Risk Assessment.

AS we begin to move out of lockdown, the SME Support Forum, set-up by law firm, McKees, accountancy firm Harbinson Mulholland and financial services practice, Kerr Henderson, is urging businesses to start taking the steps now to ensure they are in the position to reopen when the time comes.

Chris Ross, Managing Partner of McKees said: “While we have a five-stage plan from the executive on how lockdown will be eased, the lack of a timetable with appropriate dates means that businesses still don’t know when they might be allowed to reopen. The process of reopening will be complex and require careful planning, involving employees, suppliers and in some instances, landlords and managing agents. There are a number of critical steps all businesses should be taking now to ensure they are in the position to open their businesses.

The SME Support forum strongly recommends that all businesses planning to return to work, in some shape or form, over the coming weeks and months, carry out a robust Risk Assessment and prepare a Return to Work Plan. Failing to prepare now, will only delay the reopening of businesses.”

“A risk assessment addresses the threat of Covid-19 and it’s important that businesses identify the measures and systems they need to implement to control the risks for employees and any individuals visiting the premises. We are urging people to take action now and work out what they need to do to ensure they can reopen safely.

Alongside this, develop a Return to Work Plan to ensure you can prepare for getting your employees back to work – for example, do you need to change shift patterns, implement entrance or exit protocols and consider staff who have children and might not have childcare. In addition, if your premises are leased and you have neighbouring businesses in the same building, it is imperative that you communicate with your Landlord and find out what safety measures they are taking and make sure that your plans are aligned,” Chris added.

The SME Support Forum has put together the following list of practical steps to help businesses begin a Risk Assessment and Return to Work Plan. The below should be considered as a starting point to help businesses prepare a detailed document:

Risk Assessment

  • Hygiene, cleaning and sanitation procedures in line with government guidance
  • Social distancing measures to maintain a 2m distance
  • A Response Plan for staff displaying symptoms of COVID-19
  • Ongoing monitoring and induction – consider vulnerable staff

Return to Work Plan

  • Re-work layout of your premises environment to ensure social distancing
  • Staggered shift patterns to ensure social distancing   
  • Provide appropriate PPE, sanitation stations and introduce frequent cleaning protocols
  • Meetings with clients / suppliers within your premises
  • What track and trace system do you need to put in place
  • Kitchen and bathroom areas
  • Mental health and well being awareness and support
  • Protocol to respond to second wave of Covid-19

“We are conscious there are so many small and medium sized businesses across Northern Ireland that mightn’t have the resources in place to provide them with information on what they should be doing and would like to remind people that the SME Support Forum is on hand to provide free support and guidance at this challenging time, so please get in touch if there is anything you are unsure about,” Chris concluded.  


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