We’ve put together the return to workplace planning guidance and templates you need to bring employees back safely.

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. That said, employees and workers should be ready to return to work at short notice, but you should be flexible where possible.

Risk assessment 

Before any workers return to the workplace, a full risk assessment must be completed. Guidance on completing a risk assessment can be found here.

You must share the results of your risk assessment with your workforce. If possible, you should consider publishing it on your website (businesses with over 50 employees are obliged to do so).

Once you have carried out a risk assessment you should display the Staying-Covid19-Secure-Workplace-Notice.pdf (11 downloads) in your workplace to show that you have complied with the guidance on managing the risk of coronavirus.

Email to staff 

Here’s a draft email template:

Dear team,

From 1st September, 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)

Office rules

To 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. You can also Return-to-workplace-planning.pdf (12 downloads) as a PDF.