Can my boss make me return to work?

With lockdown measures gradually being eased across the UK, the number of people returning to work is set to increase. But for lot of people there is worry and concern about the risk of contracting Coronavirus.
The current advice is that employees who can work from home are to continue to do so and those that cannot there has been Government guidance issued on working safely across a wide range of sectors.

Do I have to return to work?
For those working in public-facing jobs like bars or restaurants this may become an issue. If your employer has put in place health and safety measures and you decide not to show up for work you should not expect to get paid. However, under employment law, workers have the right to walk off the job to protect themselves from “serious and imminent” danger. Employers must be “especially careful” to protect those that are vulnerable and may need to look at varying their responsibilities, or keeping them on furlough until it is safer for them to return. From 1 August those classed as vulnerable will no longer need to shield and may return to work if their workplace is Covid-secure.

What if I don’t think my workplace is safe?
Employers must follow a strict code of measures, which can include:

  • Observing the “1 metre plus” rule of social distancing
  • Introducing one-way systems to minimise contact
  • Frequent cleaning of objects and communal areas
  • Storing returned items for 72 hours before returning them to the shop floor
  • Table service only in indoor pubs and restaurants
  • Venues expected to collect customers’ contact details for the NHS Test and Trace system

If employees are unhappy and their employer has not addressed their concerns, they should contact their local authority or the Health and Safety Executive, who can force firms to take action.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) says companies should publish risk assessments, so employees know what safety measures are being taken. However, it says that not all firms have done so.

If you have any questions relating to the above please contact one of the team at employmentlaw@woodfines.co.uk

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