Return to work: new guidance from the IOE and IT on furlough and COVID-19 safety in the office

Wed 24 Jun 2020
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
IOE News

Health secretary Matt Hancock this week said it is “critical” that employers work with the government and their own staff to ensure employees could work in a “Covid-secure environment”.

The minister’s warning came on Monday (22 June) ahead of the predicted return to offices from the start of August. A relaxation of the 2-metre distancing rule was announced by the prime minister yesterday (Tuesday 23 June).

With this in mind, the IOE&IT’s new Business Shield helpdesk has produced a range of guidance and updates for business members.

The downloadable documents range from template furlough letters to coloured signage that firms can print off in colour for use around the office.

Free to IOE&IT business members

The Business Shield helpdesk, involving access to expert advice on HR, tax, health & safety and legal issues, was launched in May to business members as a free addition to their existing benefits.

“We encourage our business members during the current climate to use the free advice available through the regularly-updated Business Shield helpdesk,” said Kelly Rawles, IOE&IT membership manager.

She added that non-business members could access the helpdesk by upgrading their membership. This process can start with an email to

Workplace adjustments

The helpdesk’s advice to employers on adapting workplaces includes:

  • Stagger start and finish times where possible
  • Put arrangements in place for structured arrivals and clocking in where relevant
  • Mark working entrances out to help maintain social distance
  • Wash hands upon arrival and before leaving
  • Temperature checks of employees could be a consideration in some workplaces

Changes to furlough

The document package, produced by the IOE&IT’s helpline provider Quest Services, includes updates on evolving advice from government on furlough.

These include:

  • From 1 July ‘flexible furlough’ is being introduced meaning furloughed workers will be able to return to work part-time
  • At the end of July, employers will no longer be able to claim statutory sick pay for staff members who are shielding at home.
  • From 1 August employers are being asked to pay employee’s national insurance and pension contributions. 
  • Starting from 1 September, employers will also have to contribute 10% percent towards the salaries of their furloughed staff. The employer payments will substitute the contribution the government is currently making, ensuring that staff continue to receive 80% of their salary, up to £2,500 a month
  • From October the grant will drop further to 60% of salaries, up to £1,875, with the employer contributing 20%.