Employers: balancing returning to work with staying safe

To help countries understand the continuing challenges life under lockdown, we've been having conversations with people dealing day-to-day with the restrictions affecting the world of work and education during the COVID-19 crisis. On May 5, we talked to two employer representatives and an EU health and safety specialist to gauge how we can safely return to work.

Read about the interviews in detail and watch the video clips on ETF Open Space.

Akustina Morni, an advisor at the IoE - the International Organisation of Employers - says moving out of quarantine is going to be a major challenge for employers and workers alike. She says her association has been consulting widely and holding several videoconferences every week to formulate clear guidance for a return to a semblance of normality.

"The first thing to is to safeguard our lives and livelihoods," Akustina stresses. "Health management must be assessed in balance with the economic damage that equally impacts people's wellbeing; global coordination is important - this is a time for sharing scientific findings, it is not about competition between countries.

William Cockburn, head of the Prevention and Research Unit at EU-OSHA, the EU agency for Safety and Health at Work, also acknowledges the challenges businesses face. For companies seeking to get their business up and running again,

"the first step is to carry our a risk assessment revisiting their existing risk assessment and analysing how their work is done and what aspects of that could give rise to risks of transmission of COVID 19," William says: "There will be other challenges too, dealing with a workforce that may have been confinement, like in Spain, for more than a month, and which is understandably anxious about going back to work.

Talal Hijazi, General Manager, Association of Lebanese Industrialists, says a return to business as normal will be impossible until a vaccine is found. In the meantime, a gradual re-opening of the economy must be carefully managed. The Lebanese government was beginning to introduce sector-by-sector re-opening for business, but with rules that include 30 per cent occupancy rates in factories, social distancing and the provision of protective gear, the economic cost of the pandemic lockdown measures would not be over any time soon.

"The government has a good business continuity contingency plan and our association is participating in implementing this, but our dilemma is that we do not know the timeline. Without a vaccine there is no definite solution."

Watch the interviews on the ETF's Facebook page.

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