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UK government set to publish return to work roadmap this week

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The UK is poised to begin a phased exit of lockdown measures as experts advise that the population is now ‘past the peak’ of coronavirus infection.

In one draft document seen by the BBC, the government outlined measures that could mean that some businesses can reopen and people can return to work.

Remote working where possible will reportedly continue to be encouraged for the foreseeable future, with businesses urged to stagger staff shift times on premises to help maintain social distancing measures.

CityAm has also reported that businesses of over five employees will be required to draw up a risk assessment before people can return to working within the same building or office.

More protective screens, akin to those that have sprung up in supermarkets across the country, may be introduced in businesses where social distancing is not possible due to, for example over the counter services.

The application of floor markings indicating an appropriate 2 meter distance when queuing is also expected to be included in the advice.

For Julian Cox, head of employment london at BLM, the proposed guidelines suggest some necessary changes to terms and conditions of employment, particularly where the most vulnerable employees are concerned.

The BBC reported that workers over the age of 70 or with a disability should be, Cox paraphrased "put in as safe as possible role" when working from home is not possible.

This, he told HR magazine, "opens up a can of worms" in employment law. He said: "Employers must tread very carefully when changing employment terms due to protected characteristics to make sure that they aren't inadvertently treating them less favourably than other employees."

Chief medical adviser professor Chris Whitty has already advised that some coronavirus related restrictions will remain in place for the rest of the year.

The government’s deadline to review lockdown rules is 7 May yet it is expected to to release the details of a full lockdown exit roadmap on 10 May.

In a press briefing on 30 April prime minister Boris Johnson explained that the plan would present a “menu of options” designed to facilitate a return to work in different circumstances.

He also added the use of PPE, in particular face masks, will be useful in helping people feel more confident to return to work and that the aim of the document was to "unlock the economy gradually."

Nevertheless, speaking to HR, Andy Davies Senior VP at MHR advised that organisations should start making plans for "any phased lifting of lockdown and consider making substantial, technology-based changes to how they work.

"Offices may reopen, but many employees will still work remotely, making it a necessity to have a platform that brings all parts of the business together for closer collaboration and greater productivity," he said.