Tips for employees during the coronavirus outbreak
Lockdown restrictions are starting to ease, especially in England. This means more employees are being asked to return to work.
But perhaps you’ve been sent a letter asking you to stay at home to ‘shield’. If so, your employer should allow you to work from home – or go on furlough.
Maybe you are in a vulnerable group. Are you pregnant, disabled or aged over 70? If so, and you can’t follow social distancing guidelines at work or on the way to work, then you should stay at home and tell your employer you are following government advice.
For everyone else, the government says that home working should be allowed if at all possible. But the government also acknowledges that some employers may need their workers to go to work.
If you do need to go to work, your employer should make sure you are safe. You have the right to be protected, wherever you work and whatever you do.
Coronavirus does not change this.
Managing your personal and work life
COVID-19 has changed our way of life.
Schools are starting to take children back to class, but the vast majority will remain at home for some time. The elderly and vulnerable should not to go out and many people have taken on duties like shopping, to help them.
You may be vulnerable yourself due to an underlying health condition.
All this can make it difficult for people to juggle returning to work with their home life.
Talk to your employer to find a way that works for you both.
These things may help:
- taking annual leave
- asking for unpaid leave
- a period on furlough
- working fewer hours
- changing your start and finish times
- having flexible work hours.
Staying safe in the workplace
If you need to return to the workplace your employer will need to take new precautions in line with government advice. These could include:
- staggering your shifts
- extra cleaning of work areas throughout the day
- keeping two metres away from colleagues if possible.
You must follow the new rules.
Where it is impossible for workers to be two metres apart, employers should put things in place to reduce the risk. Talk to your manager about this.
Steps can include:
- limiting close contact activities
- avoiding face-to-face working
- installing screens
- using face coverings.
You can refuse to return to work if unsafe
If you feel the workplace remains unsafe, you can refuse to return.
Employees have the right to refuse to work if there is a risk of exposure to serious and imminent danger. This includes the risk of coronavirus.
If you have concerns
- Raise them with your employer.
- Talk to colleagues. Group concerns carry more weight.
- Talk to your trade union representative.
If your employer does not resolve the issue, you should report it to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
The HSE will investigate and act, if required.
Good to know
Legal Choices is a free website run by legal services regulators.
The information here is independent and just the facts. We're not trying to sell you anything.
We just tell you about things that are good to know to help you make better choices about legal issues and lawyers.
Search our dictionary
Our plain English law dictionary can help you understand terms related to employment law.