Introduction to this document

Social distancing reminder memo

Where employees are working in their physical workplaces during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s essential they continue to maintain social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Use our memo to remind them.

Return to work

The latest government advice for employers in England is that workers must work from home where they are able to do so effectively, and therefore you should discuss with staff whether they can carry out their normal duties from home. However, anyone else who cannot work from home should continue to attend their workplace provided it’s legally permitted to be open (but you should first check the tier-related restrictions that apply in your geographical area and then consult with these employees to determine who can come into the workplace safely, taking account of their journey, caring responsibilities, protected characteristics and other individual circumstances, and you need to give extra consideration to those at higher risk from coronavirus). Where staff are attending the workplace, you must ensure that you’ve closely followed the government’s “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines that are applicable to your particular type of workplace setting, including conducting a detailed COVID-19 risk assessment.

Social distancing

One of the key themes in the guidelines is social distancing. You should maintain two metres social distancing between staff where possible. Where it’s not possible for staff to be two metres apart, you should do everything practical to manage the transmission risk, e.g. by using screens or barriers to separate staff from each other, using back-to-back or side-to-side working, staggering arrival and departure times and/or using fixed teams.

A gentle reminder

Successful social distancing also requires your employees to co-operate by continuing to fully comply with the measures you’ve introduced. This is where our Social Distancing Reminder Memo comes in. It’s worth issuing this when staff come back to the workplace and then at regular intervals, regardless of whether there’s been any non-compliance with your social distancing rules. Our memo reminds staff about the need to maintain social distancing at all times to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the workplace, and it makes clear that this covers not only when in work but also when arriving at or departing from the workplace and when travelling between sites. We’ve also provided that if anyone sees another employee inadvertently failing to comply with the rules, they should verbally use the phrase “remember social distancing”, and they should report deliberate or persistent rule breaches to their line manager.

Disciplinary action

Given the potentially serious implications of a workplace coronavirus outbreak, you’re within your rights to take disciplinary action against any employee who breaks the social distancing rules. It would probably be unreasonable to do this for an accidental one-off though, so our memo provides that disciplinary action will be taken against anyone who deliberately flouts or persistently fails to abide by the rules. Depending on the severity of the offence, it could be considered as seriously as gross misconduct, so we’ve provided for that too.