Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)

If staff are worried about going to work

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, some staff might be anxious about safety and going to the workplace.

Employers should encourage staff to talk to them about any concerns they have, and try to resolve them together.

If someone does not want to go to the workplace

Some people might not want to go to the workplace, or might not be able to.

For example, this might be because they’re:

  • worried about catching COVID-19
  • at high risk if they catch COVID-19
  • caring for children
  • pregnant
  • living with someone who has been advised to stay at home by their doctor because they have a serious health condition

The employer should:

  • listen to any concerns staff may have
  • take steps to keep everyone safe at work
  • reassure staff by telling them how the workplace has been made safe

As well as following working safely guidelines, ways to help keep people safe could include:

  • extra car parking where possible so they can avoid using public transport
  • furlough if someone's temporarily unable to work
  • different working hours temporarily to avoid peak times

If someone still does not want to go to the workplace, they may be able to arrange with their employer to take holiday or unpaid leave. The employer does not have to agree to this.

If someone refuses to go to work after all reasonable options have been considered, the 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.

Raising an issue

If an employee or worker has concerns, they should speak with their employer or manager.

Employers and managers should take any issues raised by staff seriously.

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