Following the introduction of COVID lockdown 3 on 5 January 2021, we have released a series of articles explaining the legal impact on eight areas of daily life. This article looks at how the new lockdown may impact your going to work as an employee and what you may be asked to do.
Furlough leave if you can’t work
Several business sectors such as hospitality aren’t allowed to open at the moment. A number of other sectors can work but are facing significantly reduced demand.
Because of this, your employer may not have enough work for you to perform your normal duties for your normal hours. They may place you on furlough leave, which means you are paid for staying at home and not working and they can claim some of this cost back from the Government.
You may be furloughed full time, or if there is still some work you may still be working part time and on furlough for the rest. Either way, while on furlough you should not do any work for your employer, although you are still allowed to to take part in training, volunteer for another organisation, or work for another employer (as long as your employment contract permits this or you obtain permission from your current employer).
To understand more more about how furlough works, see our COVID and the Furlough Scheme article.
Working from home or going to work?
As the majority of businesses are still operating, your employer may be able to keep you working. If so, and you are able to do so, this work should be done from home and not the usual workplace.
Many jobs can’t be performed from home, for example manual jobs and many keyworkers, so you will be required to attend your normal workplace. There are many reasons why you may be uncomfortable with this, but you can’t assume that you will be allowed to stay at home.
If you are concerned that your workplace is not a safe environment, then you may have a valid cause for concern. Your company should have performed a Health and Safety Risk Assessment for COVID and should have measures in place where possible to ensure that the workplace is a safe environment.
If they have not, you can remain absent from work, but this risks being counted as an unauthorised absence, especially where the company is able to demonstrate the safety of the workplace. You should discuss your concerns with your employer as it may be straightforward to address them.
If you are unsure whether you should be attending the workplace, please feel free to contact us to discuss your options further.
Staying at home on health grounds
In circumstances where you are classified as clinically extremely vulnerable on health grounds, you are legally not supposed to be attending the workplace. You should work from home if possible, but if it isn’t you should either be furloughed or put on sick leave. Please note that it will be your employer’s choice whether to furlough you or just pay sick pay.
Staying at home due to childcare
You may be unable to attend the workplace because of childcare issues, especially with schools closed. There are some circumstances where you might still be able to send your children to school – see our article on COVID and Caring for Children for more details. If this is not possible or practical, you should first raise this with your employer. If they are unable to assist, then you do still have options such as emergency time off for dependants, or parental leave. It is always best to avoid unauthorised absence if you can.
For more information on COVID and going to work
If you have further questions on what your employer can and can’t make you do during a lockdown, or if you believe you are being treated unfairly, please contact the Employment team at Backhouse Solicitors, who will be able to advise you on how best to proceed.
The Backhouse Solicitors Team
Tel: 01245 893400
Visit: 17 Duke Street, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1JU
Or send us a message through the Contact Us page on this website