Michael Legge, an employment lawyer at JMW, the solicitors, said vulnerable people being forced to go into the office may be able to claim disability discrimination if they feel it is putting their health or safety at risk. “Health conditions such as diabetes and pregnancy should both be covered by the Equalities Act,” Mr Legge said.
Anyone who is considered to be particularly at risk from coronavirus yet feels they have no choice but to come into work should submit a grievance to their employer. “If you’re fired because of it you can appeal this,” he added.
However Naeema Choudry, of law firm Eversheds Sutherland, said the situation was less clear. “It will depend on each individual case,” she said.
Below are some questions from our readers. If you would like to submit a question for our next Q&A, please send your queries to email@example.com.
‘What if my employer no longer has a job for me?’
“What am I supposed to do if my employer tells me there is no longer a job for me? I was there working as a full time employee before the pandemic.”
Here’s what Marianna has to say:
The Government set up the furlough scheme as a way to avoid people being made redundant. It has agreed to pay people up to 80pc of their usual wage – up to a maximum of £2,500 a month – until the end of August. If your work has dried up because of coronavirus your employer should agree to put you on furlough.
In September, the government will be reducing its contribution to 70pc of employees’ usual wages, dropping to 60pc in October. Employers will be required to top up payments so employees continue to receive 80pc of their usual wages.
Once the scheme ends, it will be up to individual companies to decide what to do. Those that are still not in a position to pay workers can either bring all staff back on reduced hours or make some redundancies.
‘What about if I share a desk?’
Our next question comes from a reader who’d like to remain anonymous. They ask:
“I work on reception whereby only one person needs to be present for each shift, the issue is that there is a desk and computer that is shared which I consider the same as hot-desking.
“My employer has said it will be fine to sanitise the area after each shift and use our own pens. Is this advisable and in line with Government guidelines?”
The Government has said that, if workers have to come into the office, they should have their own workstation. If this is impossible, workstations should be shared by the fewest number of people possible.
It also said that work surfaces should be cleaned frequently to prevent the spread of coronavirus but did not give guidance on how often that should be.
Make sure your employer is providing suitable products to clean your work area with and is asking all other employees using that desk to do the same.
‘Should I go back to work if I can afford not to?’
Our next question comes Ronald Dyson via email. Ronald asks:
“I am an active 65-year-old self-employed bricklayer who has been on lockdown since March 23.
“Should I go back to work if I can afford not to?”
The Prime Minister has said that anyone who is not able to do their job from home should go back to work. That includes workers in the construction industry. Being able to afford to remain unemployed is not a reason for staying off work under the new guidelines.
‘What if I can only travel into work by train or Tube?’
Our last question comes from Peter Teisen in the comments section. Peter asks:
“What is the situation if the only way to get work is via the Underground, but the tube stations and tubes trains are always crowded?”
The Prime Minister suggested workers travel to work by bike, car or on foot. However it said that if you have no other way of getting there you can take public transport.
Is your employer refusing your requests to work from home? Share your story by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know if you wish to remain anonymous.