There is no denying that 2020 has been a difficult time for both employers and employees, and the continually changing Government advice has made it even more difficult. On the 22nd September, the Prime Minister revealed his next steps to help protect Britain and avoid a second wave of Coronavirus, which complicated matters further.
It is fair to say that for many, the biggest confusion is the new advice regarding where people should be working. Previously, the Government was encouraging people to get back to work, however, this seems to have changed again and the current advice is to ‘work from home if you can’. Whilst this has seen some employers changing their plans for returning to the workplace and asking people to work from home again even if they had already returned to the workplace, other employers are still asking their employees to come into the workplace.
This new advice has left many employees questioning whether it is actually safe for them to be in their workplace at this moment in time. Many are also now questioning where they stand in relation to refusing to work if they are worried about Coronavirus and also what happens if they are showing symptoms of the virus. To help clear things up for employees, we have looked into these things further below.
Refusing to work due to Coronavirus
Whilst the Government is asking people who can work effectively from home to do so over the winter, they have said that anyone else who cannot work from home should go to their place of work. However, all workplaces should be following the COVID-19 secure guidelines and the Government says that by doing so, they will be substantially reducing the risk of transmission. It is worth pointing out that the Government suggests that extra consideration should be given to people at higher risk too.
It is difficult to provide general advice in relation to ‘refusing’ to work due to Coronavirus and all circumstances will differ. However, it is worth pointing out that generally speaking, if you refuse to go back to your workplace and you do not have reasonable grounds for doing so, your employer can legally take disciplinary action and/or sack you. That being said, if you are refusing to work because you have serious health and safety concerns then it is automatically unfair for them to dismiss you.
If you do have any worries regarding your health and safety in the workplace, it is always recommended that you speak to your employer before taking drastic action and refusing to work. The majority of employers are being accommodating and flexible in relation to bringing employees back to the workplace and they are addressing any concerns their team may have. There is no denying that it is beneficial to try to come to an agreement before taking things any further.
Showing symptoms of Coronavirus
In relation to what you should do if you are showing symptoms of the virus, the Government has made it clear that “employers must not knowingly require or encourage someone who is being required to self-isolate to come to work”. So, when showing symptoms, you should always self-isolate and you should never go to work.
You also should not go into your workplace if you are told to self-isolate by the Government’s test and trace service or if someone in your household has symptoms or has tested positive. You can find out more about when to self-isolate and what to do over on the NHS website.
How Nationwide Employment Lawyers can help
Hopefully, this will have cleared up any of the confusion you had regarding where you stand in relation to returning to the workplace during COVID-19. Of course, as mentioned above, every scenario is different and should you find yourself in a complicated situation where you are unsure how to proceed, it is always worthwhile reaching out to an employment law specialist who will be able to provide you with legal advice in this regard.
Our team here at Nationwide Employment Lawyers are experienced and talented employment law specialists, and we will gladly assist you further in this regard. Whether you are curious about where you stand legally when refusing to return to work or if you have been dismissed and you would like to know whether it was unfair or not, please do not hesitate to get in touch today. You can rely on us to provide you with the legal help that you need.