COVID-19: BACK TO THE WORKPLACE - Adapting workplaces and protecting workers
Following the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-2019) pandemic, most of the Member States of the European Union (EU) have put in place a number of measures, including those affecting workplaces, to fight the spread of the disease. The world of work is severely affected during this crisis, therefore, all sections of society – including businesses, employers and social partners – must play a role in order to protect workers, their families and society at large. The nature and extent of the restrictions, such as on suspension of non-essential activities, differ between Member States and sectors, but a substantial proportion of workers either have to work from home, or if their work cannot be performed at a distance, they stay at home often under an income replacement arrangement. Once the physical distancing measures achieve a sufficient reduction in COVID-19 transmission rates, national administrations are authorising a gradual resumption of work activities. This is being done stepwise, with work that is considered essential for health protection and the economy authorised first and work that can be done effectively while working from home last. However, regardless of how and to what extent normal work activities resume, it is highly likely that some measures will remain in place for some time to avoid a steep increase in infection rates (COVID-19: guidance for the workplace). Furthermore, it is also possible that an increase in infections at some point in the future will require a reintroduction of restrictive measures in some cases. The COVID-19 crisis is putting pressure on employers and workers, whether they had to implement new procedures and practices in a very short time, or to suspend their work and business activities. Occupational safety and health offers practical support for returning to the workplace: appropriate preventive measures will help to achieve a safe and healthy return to work following relaxation of physical distancing measures, and also contribute to suppressing transmission of COVID-19.