Coronavirus: Can my Employer force me back into the office?

Anita North
National Head of Employment

If your employer has put suitable Covid safety measures in place and wants you to return to work, they can ask you to come back at any time. If you refuse, you could be at risk of disciplinary action being taken against you unless you can show that your employer has not followed relevant guidelines in keeping you safe.

We understand that you might be feeling anxious about returning to work. If your employer has asked you to return and you don’t think the safety guidance has been followed, you have the right to challenge it. If you’d like to talk about your concerns with an Employment Solicitor, get in touch for a free initial discussion.

Call us on 0808 258 3531 or request a callback

Is it safe to go back to work?

With coronavirus cases rising again, you understandably might be concerned about going back to work. If employers need staff to return to the workplace, they’re responsible for making sure that health and safety measures are in place and regular risk assessments are carried out.

Every workplace will vary depending on the industry and they will all need different levels of safety measures to make them Covid secure. No matter what your role is, it’s important that you feel safe from contracting coronavirus at work.

For example, has your employer:

      • Made sure that there is enough ventilation in your workplace?
      • Provided sufficient hygiene facilities and hand sanitiser?
      • Arranged for the workplace to be regularly disinfected?
      • Put in place adequate communication with staff?

If they haven’t put suitable health and safety measures in place, you could be well within your rights to continue working from home.

Can I be forced to wear a mask?

Now Covid restrictions have eased, you’re no longer legally required to wear a mask indoors or on public transport. But many businesses are still asking customers and clients to wear masks to protect their staff.

Depending on your role, you may still be asked by your employer to wear a mask if you’re in a client or customer-facing role. If you’re work in the healthcare profession, it’s likely that you’ll be required to continue wearing a face covering as part of your PPE.

Can I continue working from home?

Your employer can ask you to come back to work if your role requires you to be at work to do your job properly. If you can do your job just as well at home and you don’t feel safe going into work yet, you should talk to your boss and raise any concerns you have.

If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, your employer should discuss your particular needs with you, and support you with any extra precautions which may be necessary. There are also additional considerations that your employer should bear in mind if you are disabled, pregnant or a new mother.

What will happen if I’m on Furlough?

Your employer can choose to take you off furlough any time and ask you to return to work. They should have given you a notice period and details for returning to work when they first put you on furlough. By law, your employer doesn’t need to give you a notice period but it’s likely that they’ll give you a reasonable amount of time to return.

They might decide to adjust your role if necessary e.g. working hours and flexible working but they must follow the correct procedures for doing so and get your agreement.

If you’ve got any concerns about your safety at work, get in touch with our Employment Solicitors today.

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