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Returning to Work

COVID-19

This information was originally produced by PSC Support as general guidance about returning to work from 1 August 2020.  It is for guidance only and not a replacement for legal advice.

As the COVID-19 burden changes, various local restrictions to minimise the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are being put in place. The information on this page could become out of date at any time. Please always check the latest government guidance before making important decisions about your work (links below).

Should I be returning to work?

You must not go to work if you have COVID-19 symptoms.

If you’re worried about work because of coronavirus, there are:

  • laws your employer should be following to make sure you’re safe
  • things to think about if you’re deciding whether to work
  • ways you might be able to keep getting paid if you can't work or decide not to

You have the right to be safe at work whether you work full time or have a zero-hours contract.

If your workplace is open, employers must follow guidance on making the workplace safe. Your employer should talk to you about what steps they are taking and only bring you back to your place of work if it is safe to do so.

Where to get help and advice

Government

Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)

The government website has a section at the top with links to information for each nation. Click on the name of your nation for information.

Health & Safety Executive
ACAS
Citizen's Advice
Disability Rights UK
EASS

How will my employer make my workplace safe?

Each devolved nation has developed its own guidance on working safely, which employers must follow if they are open. Workplaces following these guidelines might be called ‘COVID-secure’ or ‘coronavirus-safe’. 

Measures vary, but include:

  • Observing the “1 m plus” rule of social distancing
  • Introducing one-way systems to minimise contact
  • Frequent cleaning of objectives and communal areas
  • In shops, storing returned items for 72 hours before returning them to the sales floor
  • Table service only in indoor pubs and restaurants
  • Collecting customers’ contact details for the NHS Test and Trace system.

If you have concerns about your workplace safety and your employer has not addressed them, you can contact your local authority or the Health and Safety Executive who can force employers to take a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks.

Back to work shop

Long-term health conditions

PSC is a long-term, progressive health condition and therefore can be considered  a ‘protected characteristic’ under the Equality Act 2010. Someone with a protected characteristic is protected by law against unfair treatment and dismissal.  

Under the Equality Act, you have the right to formally ask for a written formal risk assessment to ensure that your workplace is Coronavirus safe when you return back to work.  

As an employee/ worker it is your responsibility to ensure that the risk assessment for your workplace meets your needs, and that it is safe for you to return back to work.  

If you have any concerns on the basis of your health condition, you can speak to your healthcare team and ask them to issue you with a letter confirming your health condition. You can present this to your employer to request further furlough leave (if you have already been “shielding”), or holiday leave, or unpaid leave or flexible working arrangements to which you’re entitled under current employment and coronavirus laws. 

As an employee/ worker, you have the choice of whether or not you fully disclose your long-term health condition to your employer.  It may well be in your interest to do so as your employer can prepare a personalised risk assessment for your return back to work during this Coronavirus pandemic.  

If you do choose to disclose your health condition to your employer, this should not result in indirect or direct discrimination against you.  It is illegal for your employer to discriminate against you either directly or indirectly due to this disclosure, and you can take your case to ACAS. 

FAQs

Credit

This information was prepared by Shelley Spence (Associate CIPD), HR Trustee of PSC Support and on 16 August 2020. (Updated 9 December 2021 and 13 January 2022).

Updated 30 January 2022 to include a link to HSE Guidance on protecting vulnerable workers

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