This Tuesday’s guidance was predominantly based upon the requirements and workings of the NHS, with the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, chairing the briefing. The main highlight was a new hospital is due to be opened within the ExCeL Centre, and confirmation that retired health care staff are stepping back into the fray.
However, some key points have arisen from the questions asked of Mr Hancock and Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jennifer Harries.
If management are telling people to come into work, do they have to?
The answer was yes, assuming their work could not be undertaken at home. If work may reasonably be conducted from home rather than work premises then employers should be wary about demanding a presence in the office.
However, this guidance does not override the list of businesses which should be closed, as published by the Government on Tuesday (see the list in our article published on 24th March).
Key workers are also required to attend their place of work as normal.
Some people face being sacked if they don’t go in, even if they are fearful of their health – what is your recommendation?
The Government believe they have been clear on this point. If a business is one of those listed to close, the Government will take enforcement action if it is found that they are open. Staff should not be asked to attend the work premises if the business is on the list of closures.
If you are still travelling into work, your employer owes a duty of care to you to ensure that your safety is not compromised. All reasonable measures should be taken to ensure that employees attending a work premises are able to practice social distancing. This includes washing hands frequently and staying 2 metres apart from other colleagues and customers.
If you do not feel that you are being provided with a safe environment when you attend work, you must raise this with your employer. If you are not able to practice social distancing at work, this is a reasonable concern, and you should raise this in the appropriate manner.
Why are those in manufacturing and construction still being forced to work?
Whilst not considered key workers, the Government does not currently wish for these employees to remain at home. However, the same duty of care applies to the employers to provide a safe work space. If the construction work is in an enclosed space where individuals are not able to remain 2 metres apart from others, and if hand washing facilities are not readily available, the employers are not providing safe work spaces.
The Government have ultimately advised that employers should take a commonsense approach to summoning staff to work, as long as they provide a safe environment.
If any individual has concerns about their working environment, they should raise these with their employer in the usual manner. All employees should continue to observe stringent social distancing rules both on the way to work, and whilst working.
The Backhouse Solicitors Team
If you have concerns about your safety at work, and are not sure how to raise this with your employer, contact us at Backhouse Solicitors to discuss your options. Our expert team of employment solicitors will be able to guide you through the process.
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