The government has set out the roadmap out of lockdown, but what does this mean for getting staff back to work? We’ve put together return to workplace planning guidance and templates you need to bring employees back safely. You can download this page as a complete guide below or scroll to the bottom of the page for templates.

Download this page as a guide Return to work guide


The current roadmap sets out the following timeline for businesses re-opening. Although these dates are guidelines and could change, our advice is to start planning ahead so that you are prepared when you’re able to re-open your workplace. You can find the full guidance on the government website.

Step 1: 8 March 

  • All schools and colleges re-opened.

Step 2: no earlier than 12 April

  • Re-opening non essential retail, hair and beauty salons, public buildings and libraries
  • Pubs and restaurants outdoor service only
  • Indoor leisure facilities including pools and gyms

Step 3 – no earlier than 17 May

  • Pubs and restaurants indoor service
  • Hotels and B&Bs
  • Play centres and cinemas

Step 4 – no earlier than 21 June

  • All legal limits on mixing removed
  • Nightclubs open
  • Work from home guidance removed, workplaces open

What are your obligations as an employer? 

  • The Government is clear that workers should not be forced into an unsafe workplace and the health and safety of workers and visitors, and public health, should not be put at risk.
  • Employers are advised to consult with staff and ask for and consider their views to try and reach an agreement about returning to work. Even from 21 June, social distancing rules will apply. Consider staggering rotas and returns to allow for the 2m rule.
  • With large number of the workforce having worked fluidly for the last 12 months you will need to consider your flexible working policy. Many staff may now not want to come back to the workplace full-time. How will you manage requests? A staff survey is a useful way to obtain feedback and gauge opinion. We’ve got a free template (see bottom of the page).
  • If staff will remain working from home then make sure you have conducted a full risk assessment of their homeworking environment.
  • You will also need to consider your company stance on vaccinations. How will you deal with staff who may not want to be vaccinated? Read our vaccination guidance for employers.
  • It’s also useful to read the full government advice on working safely for different types of workplaces.

Stage one: Risk assessment 

Before any workers return to the workplace, and you re-open an empty building, consider conducting a full Covid risk assessment. Guidance on completing a risk assessment can be found here. A free risk assessment template to download is at the bottom of the page.

If you have over 50 employees you must share the results of your risk assessment with your workforce and publish it on your website.

Once you have carried out a risk assessment you should display the Staying-Covid19-Secure-Workplace-Notice.pdf in your workplace to show that you have complied with the guidance on managing the risk of coronavirus.

Stage two: Email to staff 

Keep staff informed of your re-opening plans, gauge who is keen to come back and plan for staggered returns.

Here’s a draft email template. You can also download this at the bottom of the page.

Dear team,

From XX21 JuneXX, the Government have encouraged people to return to work where possible, I wanted to share our plans to return to the office.

Following a detailed risk assessment (attached), we plan a phased re-opening of the office starting on the [insert date].   Initially we will ask [insert teams/members] to return to the office first.

Following this, [insert the suggested phased return, please amend to suit your requirements. Do speak with those involved and get them onboard prior to announcing the plan.]

We have created a new seating plan (see attached) with everyone having their own dedicated desk (there will be no hot desking) which keeps everyone 2 metres apart as per social distancing guidelines.  This allows us to ensure everyone is separated by an empty desk and no one is sitting directly opposite another team member.  

We have serviced the air conditioning filter and increased the cleaning routine in the office. There is hand sanitiser and cleaning fluid on each desk, please use them. 

We have followed Government guidelines to create a set of new office rules (see below) to ensure social distancing in the workplace. Please read and follow these rules carefully, if you have any queries or feedback, please speak with [me/office manager/your manager/HR].

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their ongoing support. It will be great to finally see you again in person.

If anyone has questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to speak to me directly.

Yours sincerely

xx xx


Supporting documents

Seating plan

Create and share a seating plan that abides by Gov. social distancing guidelines. Desks and workspaces should be reconfigured to allow at least 2 metres between employees. Desks should also be reconfigured to create back-to-back or side-to-side working arrangements whenever possible. Partitioning should be installed to allow staff to work closely without the risk of cross contamination.

General Guidance

  • If you are feeling unwell – please stay at home and inform your line manager.
  • Use alternative routes to work to avoid using public transport where possible.
  • Ensure that on entering the building, you use the hand sanitiser provided.
  • Follow the guidance on the signs and posters displayed around the office.
  • When eating lunch, please stay socially distanced. We recommend you take a walk, sit at your desk or sit outside where suitable.
  • If you are concerned about using the cups, plates, etc provided in the office, please bring your own and take them home with you at the end of the day.
  • If you are concerned you may have a temperature, you can use the infra-red thermometer which is located with the first aid equipment [insert location] and inform [the Office Manager].
  • Please wipe down your desk surface and equipment at your desk before and after use (start and end of day)

Step three: Office rules

Plan ahead and consider what the office rules will be in order to keep everyone safe. These can be adapted to suit your workplace environment.

How to ensure social distancing in the workplace

You should always:

  • stay 2 metres apart from other employees and customers (or 1 metre with risk mitigation where 2 metres is not viable)
  • wash hands and clean surfaces frequently
  • put up signs and use floor tape to remind people to keep social distance
  • keep the number of employees on site to a minimum
  • wash your hands and clothes after helping someone in an emergency
  • make sure you have enough appropriately trained staff to keep people safe (e.g. having dedicated staff to encourage social distancing or to manage security)
  • limit access to the kitchen
  • reduce contact between the kitchen workers and other employees (also when on breaks)
  • place screens between equipment in larger kitchens
  • have one person at a time getting things from the pantry, fridge and freezer
  • minimise contact with other employees when handing over food
  • move seating in reception to encourage social distancing
  • work side by side or back-to-back rather than face-to-face
  • have fixed teams to minimise exposure
  • provide training for workers on new ways of working

Where you cannot stay 2 metres apart (or 1 metre with risk mitigation where 2 metres is not viable) you should:

  • only work together up to 15 minutes at a time
  • use screens and barriers to separate people where possible
  • work side by side or back-to-back rather than face-to-face
  • have fixed teams to minimise exposure

Entrances and exits

You should:

  • stagger arrival and departure times for staff, visitors and guests
  • open more entrances and exits to the site
  • use screens in reception areas
  • mark a one-way flow where possible
  • provide hand washing facilities or hand sanitiser
  • provide more parking
  • provide facilities to help people cycle, run or walk to work (for example, bike racks)

Moving around the workplace

You should:

  • close off areas that are not essential
  • put up signs to use stairs instead of lifts, while keeping access to lifts for disabled people
  • review layouts and processes to allow employees to work further apart from each other, for example by assigning employees to specific areas of the restaurant or sections of the bar or counter
  • ask people to store personal items in lockers
  • control the use of corridors, lifts and similar areas, for example with markings on the floor
  • have floor markings where people queue (e.g. toilets)
  • stagger break times and, if possible, have breaks outdoors
  • arrange seating in break areas 2 metres apart (or 1 metre with risk mitigation)
  • make sure the smallest possible number of people share equipment and workstations
  • put up screens where you cannot put workstations 2 metres apart
  • limit the number of people handling equipment
  • make sure air filters in high-risk areas are installed and maintained to reduce the risk from airborne particles
  • avoid hotdesking
  • sanitise workstations between occupants where people share
  • rearrange desks to avoid face-to-face working
  • encourage employees to stay on site during the day (e.g. if they go out for lunch, they should social distance) unless you are in a more rural setting with fewer opportunities to interact with others.

Keeping safe in meetings

You should:

  • only have meetings in person if you cannot meet remotely
  • stay 2 metres apart (or 1 metre with risk mitigation where 2 metres is not viable)
  • use signs on the floor to help people maintain social distancing
  • have meetings outdoors or in ventilated rooms
  • not share objects like pens
  • have hand sanitiser in meeting rooms

Keeping employees safe when they travel for work

You should:

  • only travel for essential work
  • have fixed groups of people travelling so that any contact happens between the same people
  • clean company vehicles between shifts
  • make sure accommodation meets social distancing guidelines
  • keep a log of who is staying where


For a tailored plan or advice on returning to work please get in touch with our team.