Going to the workplace during coronavirus (COVID-19)

If staff are worried about going to the workplace

Some people might be anxious about going to the workplace. For example, because they're:

  • worried about catching COVID-19 at work or when travelling to work
  • at high risk if they catch COVID-19
  • living with someone who's at high risk
  • caring for children
  • pregnant
  • disabled

Employers should:

  • take steps to keep everyone safe at work
  • reassure staff by telling them how the workplace has been made safe
  • encourage staff to talk to them about any concerns they have
  • listen to any concerns staff may have and try to resolve them together
  • discuss safety when travelling to work

Employers must make 'reasonable adjustments' for disabled staff.

As well as following the government's public health advice, employers and employees could discuss other ways to help keep safe. For example:

  • flexibility with working hours, for example working different hours temporarily to avoid peak travel times
  • flexible working arrangements, including working from home and hybrid working
  • other ways to travel to work, for example walking, cycling or providing staff with extra car parking where possible

If someone refuses to go to work

If someone refuses to go to work after all reasonable options have been considered, their employer could start a disciplinary procedure.

If someone believes their workplace is not safe

People legally classed as employees are protected by law from being dismissed or experiencing any 'detriment' if they:

  • reasonably believe being at work or doing certain tasks would put them in serious and imminent danger
  • take reasonable steps over a health and safety issue, for example complaining about unsafe working conditions
  • inform their employer about their health and safety issue in an appropriate way

A dismissal in these circumstances could be classed as an automatically unfair dismissal.

Detriment means treatment that leaves someone worse off, for example:

  • their employer reduces their hours
  • they experience bullying or harassment
  • their employer turns down their training requests without good reason

People legally classed as workers also have protection from experiencing any 'detriment' if they:

  • reasonably believe being at work or doing certain tasks would put them in serious and imminent danger
  • take reasonable steps over a health and safety issue
  • inform their employer about their health and safety issue in an appropriate way

If an employee or worker refuses to work because they reasonably believe that the working environment is not safe and they're then treated less fairly by the employer as a direct result, they could make a claim to an employment tribunal.

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