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:

  1. taking annual leave
  2. asking for unpaid leave
  3. a period on furlough
  4. working fewer hours
  5. changing your start and finish times
  6. 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:

  1. staggering your shifts
  2. extra cleaning of work areas throughout the day
  3. 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:

  1. limiting close contact activities
  2. avoiding face-to-face working
  3. installing screens
  4. 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

  1. Raise them with your employer.
  2. Talk to colleagues. Group concerns carry more weight.
  3. 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.

For more information on your rights at work, find out about employment law. You can also seek advice from a regulated legal advisor.

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.

About Legal Choices

Purple pattern

Search our dictionary

Our plain English law dictionary can help you understand terms related to employment law.

Your Comments

Duncan says:

Tue, 06/02/2020 - 09:31
Please advise on Bank Holiday pay? There have been 4, during my furlough and I’ve only received the 80%. Thank you.

Vivienne Chris… says:

Tue, 06/02/2020 - 22:08
I am in the vulnerable group that received a letter to shield. I work in a nursing home that has has had covid I want to return to work sometime soon could you please advise how I do this ? Thank you .

Kevin butt says:

Wed, 06/03/2020 - 11:14
My partner has been sheilded. I have been her emergency carer 4 two months.. Can I be furlough. Not been paid in that time

Mohua says:

Wed, 06/03/2020 - 11:20
I am not sheilding by gp but I am shuilding my employer ,gave me statutory pay . Now they didn't call me to join me. What to do ,pls advice me.

Eddie Smith says:

Wed, 06/03/2020 - 13:34
Very informative and useful information, thankyou

Rickie says:

Wed, 06/03/2020 - 16:42
Im on an agency and they furloughed me they haven't payed me for 3 weeks. And they are now saying they have no money in the pot they are waiting for the government to pay them back. But told me i can't get nothing. Is there anything i can do as it says government are paying furlough till October.

Rachel Thomas says:

Wed, 06/03/2020 - 18:23
I'm not allowed to travel More than 5 miles to see family. Yet the company I work for (Halfords) is making me travel 25 miles to work everyday

Ian Naylor says:

Wed, 06/03/2020 - 20:13
When on furlough, are supposed to be paid full for bank hook days?
When on furlough, are you supposed to accrue holiday entitlement?

Sue franklin says:

Thu, 06/04/2020 - 03:42
My son had to finish work and should of been paid furlough but the nursing home he works for has not paid him his partner had a letter saying she is at risk so he had to stay at home for her safety the home is saying they dont owe him the furlough money any advice would help please

Keith says:

Thu, 06/04/2020 - 17:57
When do I have to return to work if I am shielded

Leave a comment

Please note: your email address will not be published, it is for verification purposes only.