Know your rights: Returning to work safely

My employer has asked me to return to work. What do I need to do before I go back to the office?

You need to know how your employer will operate before and after they reopen and what you should do to keep yourself and your fellow workers safe.  The Government has set out detailed information in the protocol for returning to work safely. Following these measures will help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in your workplace.

Your employer must put systems in place before reopening. They must send you a pre-return to work form at least 3 days before your planned return. This will ask if you have COVID-19 or any symptoms, if you have been asked to self-isolate or if you are a close contact of anyone who has or is suspected of having the virus.

Your employer should update business and safety plans including how to deal with a suspected case of COVID-19. They must appoint a designated manager who will take care of suspected cases of COVID-19. Your employer must communicate with and consult with workers on any changes needed in the workplace, including appointing a lead worker representative. They must give you COVID-19 induction training.

When you are back at work, your employer must:

  • Provide temperature testing in line with public health advice and hygiene facilities including tissues, disposal bins or bags and hand sanitiser.
  • Arrange for physical distancing across all work activities of at least 2 metres where possible. This may mean staggering breaks, meetings and canteen facilities.
  • Implement a no handshaking policy, adapt any sign in and sign out systems and ensure safe practices.
  • Keep a log of any group meetings.
  • Regularly clean your workplace.
  • Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and protective clothing where necessary.
  • Designate an isolation area where an employee suspected of having COVID-19 can go. The designated manager will arrange for the person to be taken there by a safe route. The manager must also arrange for the employee to get home or get medical help and avoid public transport.

You must:

  • Travel to work alone. If travelling by car you should travel alone or share with only one person while maintaining physical distancing.
  • Follow any social distancing measures your employer puts in place.
  • Wash your hands properly and follow advice on sneezing and coughing.
  • If you are unwell, get medical advice and you should not go to work.
  • Tell your employer if you think it is unsafe for you to be at work and why or if you are concerned you could be putting a member of your household at risk.

If you feel your workplace is not following social distancing or other measures, you can raise your concerns with the Health Service Authority (HSA). The Health Service Authority has the power to inspect and shut down workplaces that don’t follow safety guidance. You can contact the HSA by emailing or phoning 1890 289 389.

Your employer can get return to work COVID-19 templates and checklists

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Citizens Information Centres are offering a phone and email service. You can access information and advice from: