Returning to the workplace after Covid-19

A toolkit to help employers establish a return-to-workplace plan for employees living with obesity

Bajorek Z, Bevan S  |   | Institute for Employment Studies | Sep 2021

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This research is the latest output of the PURPOSE programme (Promoting Understanding and Research into Productivity, Obesity Stigma and Employment). The programme, funded by Novo Nordisk, focusses on improving national productivity levels via better employment and labour market outcomes for those living with overweight or obesity.

With government guidance no longer instructing people to work from home, employers have a duty to protect and safeguard their staff as they return to the workplace. What has become evident throughout the Covid-19 pandemic is that some employees with long-term health issues, including people living with obesity and related health conditions, may have greater risks of severe Covid-19 related outcomes if they became ill with the virus.

The toolkit highlights the legal responsibilities that employers have for providing a safe workplace, as well as detailing a six-step practical plan which aims to understand both organisational and employee needs as workplaces begin to plan for the future. The toolkit details the following key factors to be considered regarding employees living with overweight and obesity, when making the decision to open-up the workplace.

  • Planning: Includes identifying stakeholders and presenting specific questions for senior management, HR, line managers and employees to consider.   
  • Risk assessments: A summary of the Health and Safety Executive risk assessment guide in addition to questions to consider when employers are specifically engaging with staff living with overweight and obesity.
  • Employee consultation: This section provides a range of questions and examples for an anonymous employee questionnaire, in addition to further issues to consider.
  • Return to workplace conversations: A resource to guide line managers through sensitive conversations with advice and question primers, enabling an individualised approach when discussing returning to the workplace with their staff.
  • Opening up:  Includes a detailed checklist of actions that employers should consider before re-opening the workplace.
  • Review of actions: Once the workplace has been re-opened it is important that policies and practices continue to be reviewed and updated, making sure that the measures are being safely implemented but also that they are not discriminatory or stigmatising to any employee groups.

Novo Nordisk has provided funding to the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) to undertake the creation of the PURPOSE programme, including the production of this toolkit. Novo Nordisk has had no influence over the content of this toolkit or this programme. IES retains full and final editorial control over this toolkit and all aspects of the PURPOSE programme.