What to do if your employer has said no

While some offices have sent employees to work from home indefinitely, others are telling them to come in regardless.

The Government has told businesses and workplaces to encourage their employees to work at home wherever possible, particularly those considered to be especially vulnerable to coronavirus. These include the over-70s, people with underlying health conditions such as diabetes or asthma and pregnant women.

However the Telegraph has been contacted by a number of workers falling into this group who feel they have no choice but to come into the office because of pressure from their employer. Even those who are not considered vulnerable will be concerned about having to commute in given the increased risks they face on public transport and in the office. 

So what are your rights to work from home if your employer says no?

If you’re considered to be vulnerable 

Despite government advice that vulnerable people should keep social contact to a minimum, many are finding they are still being told to go into work. 

On hearing the announcement one woman who is five months from giving birth asked her employer, a City firm, if she could work from home and was told she should come in as normal. “I asked my manager again, reminding him that I am pregnant, and was told I could work from home if I really wanted to but that it would be noted on my record,” she said. 

Another woman who is due to go on maternity leave in a week’s time was also refused the right to work from home by her employer. When she asked what would happen if she simply did not turn up at the office the next day she was told that she could not take that decision herself. She is now having to consider taking unpaid leave. 

“Obviously money is a huge concern at this time. What if my husband fall ill? We would really struggle financially,” she said. 

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. “It is a health and safety 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.

If you are not considered especially at risk 

Unfortunately those without an underlying health condition have no immediate right to work from home, despite Government advice. 

Employers have a duty to act reasonably; however because the Government said people should work from home “where possible” there is wiggle room for them to refuse,  Ms Choudry said.

“If the work is something that could not be done remotely or if there needs to be a certain number of workers in the office, employers are able to tell people to come in,” she added. 

All employees have the right by law to request flexible working which they could use to ask to work from home. Employers can only turn these requests down if they have reasonable cause to do so, for example if the type of work cannot be done from home. 

“However this would be a permanent change to someone’s working arrangements and you might not necessarily be able to go back on it,” said Ms Choudry. 

Is your employer refusing your requests to work from home? Share your story by emailing marianna.hunt@telegraph.co.uk and let us know if you wish to remain anonymous