Update On Our Current COVID-19 Guidelines

As a phased relaxation of lockdown begins and with some businesses returning to work, albeit into a ‘new normal’ environment, we wanted to provide you with an update of our current guidelines for vocational rehabilitation assessments and some guidance on managing a return to work.

For the time being we will be carrying out FCEs virtually on the basis that there will be limitations regarding testing and technology available to individuals. The virtual assessments are based on observations of various prescribed activities, gait, seating tolerances etc and care is taken with how these are managed. Each situation needs to be considered and how it is carried out agreed with the referrer. Creative solutions enable us to provide the most useful and accurate information we can e.g. we may be able to have relatives videoing aspects of the individual’s activities to provide additional information. It is important that we understand the employee’s task requirements on their return to work and be able to assess and advise on the their functional capability both in the short term and in the context of their prognosis.

We have a video call arranged between our most experienced assessors to explore how we may be able to carry out face to face assessments.

Although we are starting to open up, as of this week, we are still applying a virtual first approach to carrying out remote/virtual consultations in order to:
- prevent the transmission of COVID-19 by reducing the need for face to face contact
- allow our consultants to speak to claimants who are at greater risk, self-isolating or shielding
- allow consultants in higher risk groups to carry out their work from home
- support and meet increased demand in a particular locality

By carrying out virtual assessments we have been able to support claimants back to work successfully during this period, albeit working from home as many people are. We have also seen many advantages for people during this time - the reduced stress of a commute, the ability to take regular breaks meaning they can move, stretch and keep more mobile. Many employees are hoping to continue to work from home - in some circumstances this may not be an option and a challenge that employers will need to face to support people back into the office.

However, working from home is likely to continue for many and we are hearing from employers that they had only put temporary measures in place for home workers, thinking it would be for a few weeks, so now they are looking for advice and guidance on how to ensure their employees can work safely and productively at home. We are providing this assistance to employers as well as assisting them with advice about how to bring workers back into the workplace safely.

This phase is an extremely important one as there are many workers returning to work who will have underlying health issues/concerns and employers will potentially be seeking guidance from health and vocational rehabilitation practitioners. The last thing anyone wants is for a ‘second wave’ to hit so we must ensure this phased return to work is delivered safely and efficiently. Businesses will need to consider both the workplace and the individual when assessing risks for a return to work. The employer has significant responsibilities for ensuring an adequate risk assessment is carried out and that all reasonable control measures are implemented and adhered to as well as maintained.

We have teamed up with an HR provider and an organisational culture specialist to deliver a webinar, resources and support for SMEs for getting their business back on track and safely returning their staff to work.Workers and self-employed individuals may also require advice about returning to work, working from home, work-life balance, correct workstation set up etc

Finally, it is important to note that EVERY employer must undertake a risk assessment of their workplace and work activities and implement control measures to reduce COVID-19 related risks for the transmission of infection, in accordance with the 5 steps approach adopted by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) for all risk assessments.

The lowest risk position is likely to be working from home however, there are many occupations whereby this is not reasonably practicable.

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