European Foundation
for the Improvement of
Living and Working Conditions

The tripartite EU agency providing knowledge to assist
in the development of better social, employment and
work-related policies

EU PolicyWatch

Database of national-level policy measures

Eurofound's EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the COVID-19 crisis, the war in Ukraine, rising inflation, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for measure GB-2020-27/1524 – measures in United Kingdom

BAE Systems: Social distancing measures help staff return to work safely

BAE Systems: Social distancing measures help staff return to work safely

Country United Kingdom , applies nationwide
Time period Open ended, started on 01 July 2020
Context COVID-19
Type Company practices
Category Protection of workers, adaptation of workplace
– Changes of working hours or work arrangements
Author Claire Evans (Warwick University) and Eurofound
Measure added 01 December 2020 (updated 04 February 2021)

Background information

BAE Systems is a defence, aerospace and security firm, which employs more than 34,000 people across 62 sites in the UK. Its work includes designing and manufacturing a variety of military platforms and products. BAE Systems carried on some operations during the coronavirus pandemic albeit but with safer working measures in place. Where possible, staff did work from home. However, following the lifting of the first lockdown restrictions in July, the firm worked on ensuring it was safe for large numbers of staff to return to work on their sites.

Although around a quarter of UK employees continued to work from home, the organisation began to incrementally increase the number of employees returning to their normal place of work from July onwards.

Content of measure

The firm implemented a phased return to onsite working for those employees who needed to be present for critical activities, underpinned by a return to work induction process.

Some of the measures BAE Systems introduced include:

  • Redesigning production processes; in some instances, splitting tasks between day and night shifts to avoid them running concurrently
  • Minimising movement around sites
  • Introducing one-way walkways, including on the ships and submarines that are in build
  • Changing shift patterns, introducing two-shift working patterns and staggering break times
  • Quarantining goods that arrive at sites
  • Supplying appropriate personal protective equipment to be used if staff wish
  • Introducing new and extended shift patterns in some areas of the business to allow social distancing.

The company introduced two shift-working patterns for many of its employees at Portsmouth Naval Base to allow them to continue delivering essential warship support to the Royal Navy. It also moved to 24/7 working in some areas of its submarine business. At its Typhoon Training Facility at RAF bases, the company created a remote viewing facility, which uses cameras to allow staff to review tasks that require supervision or inspection by a second or third party.

In all these changes, the company states that it worked closely with its employees, trade unions and customers to make significant workplace changes in line with government guidelines to enable employees to work safely.

Use of measure

It covers workers at a number of its production sites. Precise numbers are unknown but the firm employs 34,000 people in the UK.


  • Health and safety
  • Work organisation
  • Working time flexibility

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Employees in standard employment
Does not apply to businesses Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
Company / Companies

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Consulted No involvement
Form Any other form of consultation, institutionalised (as stable working groups or committees) or informal Not applicable

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • Unknown
  • Main level of involvement: Company level


The company has recognised trade unions and thus, it consulted with these unions at workplace level through its company-specific fora. It is assumed that these unions will have had input on design and implementation, although there is no detail in the public domain, given that this is at the workplace level.

Views and reactions

As the measures are aimed at safe working and maintaining the health of the workforce, it can be assumed that views will be supportive although none are recorded/available.

Sectors and occupations

    • Economic area Sector (NACE level 2)
      C - Manufacturing C32 Other manufacturing

This case is not occupation-specific.



Eurofound (2020), BAE Systems: Social distancing measures help staff return to work safely, measure GB-2020-27/1524 (measures in United Kingdom), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin,

Eurofound publications based on EU PolicyWatch

19 May 2022


Working life in the COVID-19 pandemic 2021

This publication consists of individual country reports on working life during 2021 for 28 countries (the 27 EU Member States and Norway).


24 June 2020


COVID-19: Policy responses across Europe

This report aims to present an overview of both large-scale government measures and collective agreements that impact on large groups of workers.

16 June 2022


COVID-19 in the workplace: Employer's responsibility to ensure a safe workplace

Throughout 2021, the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, specific occupational health and safety rules were reintroduced due to increases in infection rates.


16 June 2022


Back to work after COVID-19: Testing, vaccines and green certificates

In the second pandemic year 2021, access to one's place of work was increasingly dependent on providing proof of either having been tested, vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 in several countries.

Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.