Covid: Working from home - a professional guide to your rights - Paul Doran Law

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Covid: Working from home – a professional guide to your rights

Covid - Working from home - a professional guide to your rights

Covid: Working from home – a professional guide to your rights

Do you have questions about Covid, working from home, returning to work, and your rights? This professional guide includes our answers.

As the Covid pandemic continues, the UK vaccine programme is rolling out, and the end of furlough scheme is in sight. You might be wondering what that means to you.

The government guidance is to work from home where possible.

“You can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home… Employers and employees should discuss their working arrangements, and employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home. Where people cannot work from home, employers should take steps to… help employees avoid busy times and routes on public transport.”

Can my employer force me to return to my workplace? 

Returning to work must be ‘necessary’, ‘safe’ and ‘mutually agreed’.

If it is possible for you to work from home, your employer can’t force you to return as it won’t be necessary. If they don’t make the workplace Covid-secure, it won’t be safe. And the first step is a conversation so you can reach mutual agreement.

Do I have to go back to work if I’ve been furloughed?

The furlough scheme has been extended until the end of September 2021. But employees have no automatic right to be furloughed or to stay on furlough.

There is no standard notice period (although 48 hours is usually considered enough time).

You should have been given a written agreement when your furlough period first started or was extended. This document should include the amount of notice your employer will give you to announce the end of furlough, and the arrangements for returning to work.

Do I have to go back to work if I’m classed as ‘clinically vulnerable’ due to an underlying health condition?

With the vaccine programme rolling out across the UK, clinically vulnerable people are no longer being advised to shield.

Do I have to go back if I’m pregnant?

If you’re pregnant, you are no longer being advised to shield, so the same guidelines apply to you as they do to everyone else.

Do I have to go back if I have children or vulnerable people to care for?

This is something to discuss with your employer. They should give you enough notice to arrange childcare.

Do I have to go back if I think my workplace is unsafe?

Your employer must protect the health and safety of their employees. That includes ensuring that your workplace is Covid secure. For example, they should:

If they don’t do this, you can refuse to go back to work.

If your employer hasn’t done a proper risk assessment, first, talk to them about your concerns. If you’re not satisfied, you should follow the usual company procedure to raise a grievance. You can also talk to the Health & Safety Executive, your union, and Citizens Advice.

If you want to bring a claim to an employment tribunal, contact Acas, the arbitration service. You can also talk to us – we are employment lawyers who only act for employees, and have succeeded in winning millions of pounds in compensation for thousands of people.

Note that you should act quickly as there is a strict time limit for making a claim of three months less one day.

What if I’m in quarantine after travelling abroad?

You should talk to your employer before you go. They may ask you to work from home or the quarantine hotel during the quarantine period, or to take the time as annual leave or unpaid leave.

What if I refuse to return to work because I’m scared of catching Covid-19?

When your employer makes the workplace as safe as possible, it will be no more risky to go to work than it is to go anywhere else. In that case, a refusal to return would be considered ‘unreasonable’, count as ‘unauthorised absence’, and your employer could take disciplinary action against you.

To allay your concerns, the first step will be a discussion with them. For example, you might be able to:

What if I have symptoms of Covid-19?

In that case, you MUST stay at home to avoid infecting others.

What if a member of my household has symptoms of Covid-19?

You MUST self-isolate, and work from home if possible.

What if I am dismissed because I’m self-isolating?

If you lose your job because you’re self-isolating, this would amount to unfair dismissal under the Employment Rights Act 1996 and you can make a claim against your employer. If that happens to you, talk to us as soon as possible. The initial conversation is free. We’ll explain your rights, tell you your chance of succeeding, and hold your hand every step of the way.

Further reading relating to ‘Covid: Working from home – a professional guide to your rights’

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