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.

Government guidance

The government’s guidance on working safely during coronavirus, which applies in England, is designed to make workplaces as safe as possible. The guidance comprises a general overview and then the following six sector-specific guides: construction and other outdoor work; events and attractions; hotels and guest accommodation; offices, factories and labs; restaurants, pubs, bars, nightclubs and takeaway services; and shops, branches and close contact services. Each guide also includes a list of “priority actions” for you to take in order to protect your staff and your clients/customers during coronavirus, and this includes completing a health and safety risk assessment that includes the risk from COVID-19 and sharing it with your staff.

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).