The Covid-19 pandemic has ushered in a sea change to the workplace as companies adapt to new ways of work while ensuring the safety of their staff. While the arrival of vaccines signals a potential return to the workplace this year, there will be no “business as usual” in the office as health and safety are prioritized.

Instead, companies face the enormous challenge of enacting policies to make their talent feel safe while keeping them productive and engaged. Communicating these policies to the workforce should be as timely and relevant as possible. It is important to be clear with your guidelines when it comes to returning to the workplace and communicate your protocols effectively to your talent.

Across the world, governments and businesses have already announced guidelines intended to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace, including a phased return to workplaces, hybrid working, wearing masks, socially distanced workspaces with physical barriers, as well as sanitation guidelines. And countries have published health and safety protocols for employers to follow and subsequently addressed how to communicate these protocols to their workforce.

In addition, global CW programs need to understand the system of rules that govern contingent worker safety in various parts of the world to ensure compliance.  Here’s a brief look at what four different countries in Europe are doing.

France. For example, France’s Ministry of Labor, Employment and Integration published a nationwide health and safety Covid-19 protocol (PDF in French) that specifically mentions contingent workers and how employers should keep them apprised of safety guidelines.

The protocol emphasizes that employers should pay special attention to their contingent workforce including posted workers and seasonal workers as well as temporary and permanent workers with short-term contracts. This is to ensure that they have knowledge of the spread of the virus, as well as any barriers, physical distancing measures and employee health protection systems implemented within the company equivalent to that of other employees.

Ireland. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment in Ireland published a “Return to Work Safely Protocol” covering all employees. Due to current restrictions, it advises that only essential workers should go to their workplace. However, once it’s deemed safe to return to the workplace, the protocol states employers and workers should have regular engagement about Covid-19 and preventative measures in the workplace.

Information and guidance should be provided by employers to workers, which should include the signs and symptoms of Covid-19, how it spreads, cleaning routines and waste disposal as well as advice on hand and respiratory hygiene, physical distancing, use of personal protective equipment and work equipment, where relevant.

United Kingdom. Over in the UK, government guidance was made available to employers covering different workplace settings. A key point in the guidance is for companies to carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment, in consultation with workers or trade unions.

Germany. Highlighting the importance of employer communication with their workforce, Germany’s occupation health and safety rules on risk assessment state that if there is a risk of infection at the workplace and additional measures to protect against infection need to be implemented, employees must be informed before returning to the workplace and at regular intervals thereafter, as well as in the event of significant changes.

In a policy brief, the International Labour Organization highlights that effective and coordinated communication is essential to inform employers, workers and the larger community about policy guidance for the return to work.

“Both employers and workers need to know the established requirements for the resumption of operations and return to work,” the brief states.

Within this framework, employers should also be aware of any changes to their country’s standard of occupational safety rules to communicate that to their workforce.

The health and safety of your workforce should be the first priority when managing the return to the workplace and employers should communicate as much relevant information to their workforce as possible.