Return to Work Toolkit for Employers: May 2020
Dear WorkFit Employers, we hope that you are all safe and well and we know that you will all be working incredibly hard, doing all you can to support your employees, colleagues and customers at this very difficult time. We are grateful that some of you have been in touch to say that you will be asking your colleague who has Down’s syndrome to return as soon as it is safe and practical to do so, which we fully appreciate may not be for a while.
Similarly, some of our candidates have contacted us to say that they would like to go back to work once their workplace is open again and so we thought that this would be a good time to provide some guidance, resources and links for you and them that we hope will be useful. The safety of employees who have Down’s syndrome and all of their work colleagues is our priority and we are keen that no-one returns to work unless all parties feel that suitable measures are in place and that the new procedures can be followed correctly.
Research evidence gathered by medical experts from around the world, together with our own experience over the last few months has informed the advice that we give to people with Down’s syndrome and their families. We are now confident that people who have Down’s syndrome are at no greater risk of catching Covid-19 and those that are unfortunate enough to catch it, seem to have had a similar experience to the rest of the general population, with age and underlying health conditions being factors for determining a more serious illness. Thankfully, there have been very few deaths.
We have created a toolkit for employees and their parents/carers and we have encouraged them to think about the following considerations:
- relevant information about their health/ advice from their medical team if appropriate
- understanding of hand hygiene, social distancing and protective equipment
- ability to avoid using public transport
- their understanding of the situation
- their mental health and wishes about returning to work etc.
We envisage that you will be able to supply information (when it is available) in relation to:
- measures and new procedures put in place in the workplace to keep employees safe
- level of support from buddies to ensure that the employee who has Down’s syndrome can follow the guidelines (hand-washing, social distancing, any protective equipment and any other protocols he/she needs to follow)
With that information families, candidates and employers can assess the risk of attending work. Many families have concerns about mental health and well-being of their sons and daughters being affected if they are not able to attend work for some considerable time but of course the overall safety of everyone is the priority.
To help with your consideration of the situation we have provided some information and resources that may be useful.
The government has published guidance about the current phase of managing the pandemic and it includes some details on how to support people to get back to work. It’s called “Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy” – and the current guidelines about attending the workplace, state “All workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open”
For candidates who work in Hospitality and some Catering roles this is unlikely to be possible for a while, however, the planned re-opening of Retail outlets means that candidates in those areas can hopefully look forward to returning to work in the near future, as can those in other sectors when possible.
Some of our candidates are key workers or they are able to do some work from home so it’s important that every employee is considered on an individual basis. Annex B of the “Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy” outlines the different levels of vulnerability of our candidates. All people who have Down’s syndrome are considered to be “vulnerable” due to having a learning disability, however they may not be considered “clinically vulnerable” (in that they may not have any underlying health conditions) and so may be able to follow the guidelines issued for other employees who are returning to work.
Employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance (or need to stay home with someone who is shielding) can be furloughed if they are unable to work from home. The government have confirmed that shielding employees can be placed on furlough even if the employer has work for them to do.
Industry specific guidance about how to implement safety measures in your workplace have been made available. Some employers are considering a gradual return for their employees who have Down’s syndrome when they feel that the time is right and they have appropriate procedures in place. Initially they may suggest that their employee who has Down’s syndrome does perhaps one shift a week (possibly of a slightly shorter duration), to see how they are able to adjust to the new procedures that have been introduced in the workplace.
Also some employers are planning to invite candidates in before re-opening to deliver some training about personal protective equipment (PPE), hygiene protocols etc. as this will reassure them and allow time for them to feel comfortable with the procedures before they have to deal with customer interactions or working with colleagues once again. For example, if they work on a reception desk and you are re-configuring the reception area for visitor flow and having screens fitted, giving your employee who has Down’s syndrome some time to come in and have a look and get used to this before they return to work is very helpful if it’s possible.
This video from XPO Logistics covers some of the basic changes that you will probably be making in your workplace. You might consider making your own short video to share with colleagues and their families so that they can prepare for the changes. You might show new signage, how to put on PPE, what colleagues need to do differently at break time etc.
Short clips with a verbal explanation of what is being shown, recorded on a mobile phone can be a really useful and quick way to show changes and help your colleague who has Down’s syndrome to be prepared. If you share them before your colleague returns to work, they can look them with their family or support staff.
Alternatively you could create a document with images and a brief, simple description of what they can expect and email it to them. Please let us know if we can help with any of this.
CIPD have also produced a Return to Work Guide and General Workplace Safety Risk Assessment-(example) however since this was published the guidelines have been amended so please apply updated information when reviewing this content.
All of the points for discussion have been brought together in a Returning To Work Toolkit for Employers pdf document
At WorkFit we will be happy to advise you about the category of vulnerability that your employee who has Down’s syndrome is in and also talk through your particular situation if that would be helpful. Please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or for anything urgent, call our Employment Development Manager, Alison Thwaite on 07973 612720.
Please accept our sincere thanks for your continued support.
Resources for working remotely
Free webinar resources for people new to working remotely
Advice for businesses
Information about Government support for business
Business financial support finder tool
Government advice for employers and businesses
Financial support for businesses
Financial support for education, early years and children’s social care
Financial support for charities
Advice on claiming wage costs through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (Furloughed workers)
You are more than welcome to share and use the easy read resources and other documents relating to Covid-19 on the DSA website to support your employees.
Previous Guidance published April 2020
The Down’s Syndrome Association’s website has a page dedicated to providing a range of information about Coronavirus including Easy Read documents: https://www.downs-syndrome.org.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/
If your WorkFit employee is absent due to self-isolating or symptoms and you require a Self-Isolation note or any other information, please let them and their families know. Alternatively you can contact us for anything that you may need.
If your WorkFit employee who has Down’s syndrome is in paid work and has been asked by you not to attend their paid job, it is anticipated that they will be designated as retained or ‘furloughed’ workers through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which is being put in place to allow you to continue to pay 80% of the wages of their employees, if their jobs are at risk. This scheme offers financial security for employees who are doing the right thing and staying at home as directed by the government. Information about this scheme and other support can be found at:
General employment advice and guidance can also be found on the ACAS website at: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus
We will, of course, provide any support that we can, such as providing updated information and keeping in touch with everyone going forward. These are extraordinary circumstances and we are here to help you in whatever way we can to support you in retaining our candidates, whose jobs mean so much to them. Please contact your Employment Development Officer if you need anything.
On behalf of the Down’s Syndrome Association, we’d also like to send you and your colleagues our thanks and very best wishes for the future.
The WorkFit Team