Introduction to this document

Letter seeking consent to staggered start times

As part of making your workplace safe during the coronavirus pandemic, you might want to introduce staggered start and finish times for staff to reduce crowding into and out of the workplace.

Working from home?

Although, for the foreseeable future during the coronavirus pandemic, employees should continue to work from home rather than at their physical workplace wherever possible, those who can’t work from home are now being encouraged to go into work if their workplace is permitted to be open.

COVID-19 Secure guidelines

The government’s “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines, which apply in England, are designed to make workplaces as safe as possible and give employees confidence to go back to work. They comprise a series of guides covering various workplace settings, including: construction and outdoor work; factories, plants and warehouses; labs and research facilities; offices and contact centres; other people’s homes; restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services; shops and branches; close contact services; hotels and other guest accommodation; heritage locations; the visitor economy; performing arts; providers of grassroots sport and gym/leisure facilities and vehicles. There is also general guidance which applies across all workplaces that are currently allowed to open and this sets out five main steps to working safely: (1) you should take all reasonable steps to help employees to work from home; (2) you must carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, in consultation with your employees or trade union, and share the results with your workforce (and you should publish the results on your website); (3) workspaces should be re-designed to maintain the recommended social distancing wherever possible, e.g. by staggering start and finish times, creating one-way walk throughs, opening more entrances and exits or changing seating layouts; (4) where social distancing can’t be maintained, the transmission risk should be managed, e.g. putting up barriers in shared spaces, creating fixed teams or ensuring employees face away from each other; and (5) workplaces should be cleaned more frequently, with handwashing or hand sanitising facilities provided at entry and exit points

Consent letter

Most of the practical measures you implement following your COVID-19 risk assessment won’t constitute a change to the employee’s employment contract. However, if you intend to temporarily alter an employee’s start and finish times so as to reduce the number of staff arriving at or leaving work at the same time, this will constitute a change. Therefore, use our Letter Seeking Consent to Staggered Start Times to explain the position to the employee and to ask for their agreement to your proposals. It sets out the various other measures you’re also implementing, which should put their mind at rest, and outlines what temporary changes you’re proposing to their start and finish times. The employee can then simply sign, date and return the attached acceptance slip (include a second copy of the letter for this). If the employee doesn’t give their express agreement, it’s up to you whether to take the risk of implementing the change anyway. If the change was no more than 15 minutes at either end, whilst it’s technically a breach of contract, it’s probably not a fundamental one. However, if the change was more significant, you’re at risk of not only a breach of contract claim but also a constructive dismissal claim if the employee resigns in response (but very few employees are likely to do this in the current climate).