Returning to work during coronavirus? Here’s what you need to know

Slowly but surely, we’ll have to make our way back to the office. But how will this play out in practice? 

During a live broadcast by RTL Nieuws with some expert guests, the most pressing questions about going back to work during these times were answered. The experts are vitality expert Vivian Acquah, company doctor of ArboUnie Jos van Rooyen and Pascal Besselink, labour lawyer of DAS.

Workplace rights: can you refuse to go to the office?

Jos van Rooyen confirms that it is the responsibility of the employer to provide a safe working space. If you were to get sick at the workplace, your employer is legally liable.

In the case that they do not provide you with a safe work environment, Van Rooyen suggests that you talk to your employer first. “If your employer really keeps ignoring the rules, an employee can, in the most extreme case, call in the labour inspectorate.”

If you don’t want to use public transport, what are your options?

The responsibility of having a safe journey to work falls on you, the employee, not on your employer. Van Rooyen, however, says that there are arrangements you can make for transport, as he told RTL Nieuws.

“For example, by setting up organized company transport for staff. In this case, it is best for employees and employers to talk to each other and find a solution together.”

What if you do not want to come to the office at all?

In principle, if your employer has provided a safe working environment, you are obliged to go if they request. Nevertheless, the employer must “demonstrate good employment practices”, says Van Rooyen.

“For example if someone is in a risk group or has a partner at home with health complaints. Talk about this with each other. The employer is not always aware of the medical complaints of his staff. If you do not get along well, you can always ask advice from the company doctor.”

What if a fellow work colleague does not follow rules?

It’s best to have a conversation, either with your colleague and if that does not work, with your manager or employer. Labour lawyer Besselink told RTL Nieuws that “providing feedback is very important. Many companies also take this seriously and also give their staff many visible instructions. You can always go to your supervisor if you cannot resolve it with that colleague. You are entitled to a safe surrounding.”

What about some company drinks with your colleagues?

Obviously, for now, online is the best way to go. Vivian Acquah told RTL Nieuws that nevertheless, it’s important for people that they see each other. “Some people like to work from home, others like to go to the office. But it is important to keep the connectivity between the home workers and the people in the office.” Sometimes there are also alternatives: “have a drink or a meeting outside.”

Jon van Rooyen advises not to go in small spaces with lots of people, as well as to check for good ventilation if you are planning to share a room.

How can you keep the staff healthy?

According to Vivian Acquah, there are some good options for vitality, such as online sports. Another thing he suggests is for the employees to be encouraged to walk together, at a safe distance of course.

Lastly, it’s important to not neglect mental health either. Acquah suggests organizing an online quiz to check on with employees.

How will you approach going back to work? Let us know in the comments!

Feature Image: Free-Photos/Pixabay

Vlad Moca-Grama
Vlad was born and raised in Brasov, Romania and came to the Hague to study. When he isn't spending time missing mountains or complaining about the lack of urban exploration locations in the Netherlands, you can find him writing at Dutch Review.

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