Personal Injury

Do I Have to Go Into Work During Lockdown?

Estimated read time: 4 mins

Carrie Tennick, January 06, 2021

This week has seen the UK enter another lockdown, as the spread of a new variant of the coronavirus rapidly rises.

It means that people have been ordered to stay at home and only go out for certain limited things, including shopping for food, medical attention, exercise and work that can’t be done from home.

But is your employer able to make you go into work?

Should I work from home?

During lockdown, the government expects employers to introduce home-working, where possible. The government’s lockdown guidance states that “you may only leave your home for work if you cannot reasonably work from home”.

This includes workers in construction, manufacturing, cleaning, education, childcare, essential retail and those employed in critical national infrastructure. Most other employees are now expected to work from home.

Government guidance also states that “employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home, including providing suitable IT and equipment to enable remote working”.

Can my employer force me to go into the workplace?

If you work in any of the above fields, you will be expected to go into your workplace during lockdown. Employees in other sectors can also go to work, including:

  • Dentists
  • MOT mechanics
  • Estate agents
  • Film and TV production crews
  • Removal firms
  • Bank and post office employees
  • Funeral directors
  • Tradespeople

But even if you feel that you can do your work remotely, your employer may still require you to go into the workplace.

Must my employer ensure my safety?

If your employer wants you in the workplace, they will have to make it Covid-secure. The actions they have to take will depend on what type of environment it is – for example, different guidance has been issued for offices than has been issued for factories.

Regardless of the workplace, there are some things all employers must do, including:

  • Carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment
  • Clean more often, particularly surfaces that are touched a lot
  • Instruct workers and visitors to wash hands and use sanitiser frequently
  • Remind workers and visitors to wear face coverings where necessary
  • Ensure social distancing
  • Look at ventilation
  • Consider back-to-back or side-to-side working rather than face-to-face
  • Implement barriers between work stations

Employers should also try to reduce the number of people arriving and leaving together by staggering start and finish times. They should also make sure they collect visitors’ details for Test and Trace.

If you aren’t convinced that your employer has addressed your safety concerns properly, you can contact your local authority or the Health and Safety Executive. These bodies can force your employer to take further actions to keep you as safe as possible.

Do clinically vulnerable employees have to go in?

In England and Scotland, people who are considered to be clinically “extremely vulnerable” should now shield themselves again. These people will be contacted by letter and advised not to leave their homes.

This means they should not go into the workplace, even if their job can’t be done from home.

If you’re in this position, you can ask to be put on furlough. But this may not be an option for everyone. If your employer can’t or won’t furlough you, you could be able to claim statutory sick pay. You may need to prove that you are shielding, which you can do with the letter you receive.

Can I asked to be furloughed?

It’s not just clinically vulnerable people who can ask to be furloughed. You have the right to request it – as well as flexible working arrangements if furlough can’t be granted. This could be helpful if you’re a parent whose children are now learning at home or if you’re caring for a clinically vulnerable person in your household.

But your employer doesn’t have to agree to it.

The first thing to do is to speak to your manager and try to come to an agreement about your responsibilities – both work-related and otherwise. You may be able to come to a compromise that suits all parties.

This could be that you take annual leave or unpaid parental leave to look after your children, or that you reduce your working hours or change when you work.

If your employer insists that you have to be present in the workplace, but you’re clinically vulnerable, you could then request a note from your doctor stating that you are not fit for work and claim sick pay from your employer or statutory sick pay.

Employers have a duty to keep their employees as safe as they can. If they fail to do so, you could be able to take legal action against them. First4Lawyers can help during this sensitive time. To find out how, just give us a call, request a call back or start your claim online.

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