Employment guidance during Coronavirus lockdown 3.0

4 February 2021

As we continue with the current national lockdown we look at the rules relating to employment. The rules for England state that "you may only leave your home for work if you cannot reasonably work from home". But can employer's force employees to go to work? 

The head of public policy Ben Willmott has said "Employers have a duty of care to all their staff and must treat people reasonably and fairly, so will need to consult with individuals and be as flexible as possible when dealing with any concerns people will have over attending the workplace."

Those who are shielding should not be made to go into work, even if it is not possible for them to work from home. If an employee has received a shielding letter from the Government but cannot work from home, they can ask to be put on furlough with their employer. If the employer cannot place the employee on furlough, they may be able to claim statutory sick pay by using the shielding letter as evidence. 

If an employee lives with someone who is shielding and has received a letter, they are still permitted to go to work, if working from home is not feasible. 

The Government closed schools to most pupils in England until the middle of February and that has now been extended to 8 March. If an employee cannot work 'due to caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus', the Government has confirmed that the employee may request to be placed on furlough, but an employer does not have to agree to that request.  Some employers may agree to the employee taking the time off as annual leave or unpaid parental leave rather than placing them on furlough. Other options such as part time arrangements or a change of working pattern could also be considered. 

If an employee is unable to work from home and must attend the workplace, the employer must put in place certain Government guidance to ensure that it is a safe working environment. Such guidance includes: reducing the number of unnecessary visits to the office, ensuring staff are 2metres socially distanced wherever possible, clean surfaces, objects and communal areas regularly, provide extra hand washing facilities, introduce a one-way system, stagger start and end times, collect visitors' contact details for NHS Test and Trace, use screens or barriers between staff and retail staff must wear face coverings, unless they are exempt. 
If an employee commutes to work using public transport, taxi or any other shared transport, a face covering must be worn at all times, unless exemptions apply. 

At Gepp Solicitors we can advise on all aspects of Employment Law. For more information and guidance, please email deana@gepp.co.uk 

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues