BRUSSELS – As the governments across the European Union (EU) continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and focus on the economic recovery, global technology trade association ITI today outlined recommendations for guidance on reopening the workplace. In a letter sent to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, ITI identifies areas where the tech sector seeks harmonised guidance to safely reopen workplaces across the EU while protecting public health.
ITI underscores the importance for the EU and Member States to adopt consistent, scientific, and data-driven recommendations to protect workers and workplaces and ensure employees and employers have confidence to return to normal economic activity. ITI encourages the coordination of guidance throughout the EU – where the European Council and Commission can play a crucial role – in order to avoid a patchwork of national policies that could delay economic recovery and address potential concerns with situations involving cross-border workers and activities within the European Single Market. The EU guidelines should focus on: assessing readiness; health monitoring; transmission mitigation techniques; and employee support. ITI also urges The Commission and Member States to regularly review and modify the guidance as appropriate, given the evolving nature of the pandemic.
“Public-private sector collaboration will be critical to safely reopening workplaces in a manner that ensures the trust and confidence of employees and places the European Union on a path to a prosperous recovery,” said ITI President and CEO Jason Oxman. “Many in the technology sector will eventually return to their workplaces. When the time comes to safely do so, harmonised guidance will expedite the transition to the next phase. We welcome the opportunity to engage with the Commission, the Council, and Member States on the development of guidelines for safely reopening workplaces across the bloc.”
Guidance in the areas ITI identifies will aid businesses of all sizes, across all industries – including the tech sector – and in all localities to determine the healthiest path for reopening workplaces. These areas include:
- Assessing readiness: A checklist of considerations prior to reopening would enhance employee and consumer confidence while mitigating transmission of the virus.
- COVID-19 screening: General guidance on reliable screening methods would encourage the widest possible deployment of employer-based screening.
- COVID-19 testing: Flexible testing guidance would give companies the ability to adopt testing measures based on the safety needs of their workforce.
- Physical changes to office environments to enable social distancing: Space planning guidance, addressing for example how to reconfigure cubical or open workspace environments, and mitigate transmission risk in shared spaces.
- Alternative mitigation strategies where social distancing is infeasible: Alternative mitigation guidance where workspaces do not lend themselves to retrofitting or job functions prevent social distancing.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) or face coverings: Guidance on who is responsible for providing PPE or face coverings, and whether an employer may require employees to provide their own face coverings in an environment that does not require PPE.
- High risk or vulnerable employees: Guidance on risk profiling and related privacy obligations; describe what responsibilities, accommodations, or protocols particularly susceptible employees trigger; and how to encourage these individuals to appropriately protect themselves.
- Sanitation and disinfectant protocols: Guidance on sanitation and disinfectant protocols as offices reopen and after a confirmed COVID-19 exposure occurs.
- In-person gathering restrictions: Guidance on what restrictions on in-person gatherings will persist will benefit employers, employees, and individuals alike.
- Contact tracing: A clear set of protocols for data processing among private entities and local public health agencies – as well as across borders- to enable interoperability and data sharing among bordering Member States and closely situated localities.
- Compliance: Guidance on how to best encourage and ensure compliance with public-health driven guidelines by employees and customers.
- Mobility guidance: Clarity with regards to intra-EU mobility prospects, along the lines of the recent and very helpful European Commission Guidelines concerning the exercise of the free movement of workers during COVID-19 outbreak.
- Balancing health and safety and COVID-19 related family circumstances: Guidance on how to balance workplace re-openings, health and safety concerns, and COVID-19 family circumstances.
Read ITI’s full recommendations for guidance on reopening the workplace here.