Practical Employment Law Considerations for Returning to Work2022-06-14T17:39:41+00:00

Coronavirus Legal Portal

Returning to Work

Managing employee numbers

Large volumes of employees returning to a shared workplace (especially if public transport is used) represents a huge risk for the spreading and contracting of Coronavirus so the phased return approach has been introduced. Only those whose roles require them to be in the office/workplace will return first, with others who can remote work being asked to continue to do so.

Deciding which employees are essential to restarting workplace activities is likely to be difficult. Some employees may be very keen to return, and others less so possibly because of the ongoing risk of Coronavirus and the preference for home working generally.

This is the time to consider your company’s plan as each business will be different. It has been suggested that you could consider staggering the introduction of employees to the office by splitting teams across functional lines who attend the office at different times. Working from home is likely to continue for some time to come and may become a permanent feature.

Safety measures

We have already been warned that social distancing is likely to be around for some time. This is likely to be easier for some workplaces and roles than others. Given the time that it may take to make arrangements, planning now is likely to make reintegration to the workplace easier.

Within the workplace you may want to consider:

  • signage to make social distancing easy to maintain.
  • reconfigure your work space to meet social distancing requirements. This isn’t just separating desks a few inches but by metres and reviewing walkways.
  • one-way systems, up and down stairways, restricting the use of lifts to those working on higher floors or with restricted mobility and unless your lift is sizable only having one person in it at a time.
  • provision of sanitisation points throughout the workplace.
  • using the NHS App when up and running.
  • installation of sneeze screens in both reception areas and offices.
  • you may wish to consider more flexible working hours to enable employees to commute at less busy times.
  • review cleaning arrangements of the workplace and look at the use of communal spaces such as cafeterias.
  • provision of PPE.

Testing for infection or antibodies by the employer is an area which likely to become of interest but one that is not risk-free. Do you have the contractual right to test employees and how are you going to retain the information whilst complying GDPR. These are things you can review before reintegrating your employees.

Health & Safety

Employers have a duty to provide a safe place of work and to protect the health and wellbeing of their employees. There is a raft of legislation enforcing this and employers will wish to avoid claims in this area.

It is important not to forget that your employees and their families will continue to be anxious about the risk of coronavirus. So what do you do if having implemented physical changes within the office you have an employee who refuses to return to work because they are worried that their risk of catching Covid-19 continues possibly because of the use of public transport but also because of the risks associated with the workplace itself?

There is a section under the Employment Rights Act 1996 namely s.100 which is not often used but could be in this scenario. If an employee has a reasonable belief that they may be placed in serious or imminent danger (they could have conditions or be deemed to be in the vulnerable group) and as a result they refuse to return to the workplace or work or leave the workplace then they may have protection. If they are dismissed then any such dismissal could be automatically unfair, there is no minimum length of service and there is no cap on compensation. If the employer decides instead to reduce pay or place them on furlough as a result of any concerns raised, then if the employee resigns as a result then that constructive dismissal may be automatically unfair. This needs careful handling.

Good communication is essential and to ensure that you understand the employee(s) concerns and to explore how they may be alleviated if possible. Normally, an employee’s failure to turn up and perform their job unless ill or with the employer’s authority would amount to a breach of contract, and likely lead to disciplinary action or dismissal without notice. The current crisis alters this basic position in several ways.

Disciplining the employee or terminating the employee’s contract of employment for their refusal to return to work is not an option as stated above if they have reasonable grounds. If an employee reasonably believes that going into work puts them in serious and imminent danger due to Covid-19 (including on their commute) they can stay at home while continuing to be entitled to full pay. Detriments imposed by employers in response to this, including any disciplinary action or pay deductions, may be unlawful (pay deductions will also be “unauthorised deductions”) and dismissals where the refusal is the reason, or principal reason, for the dismissal will be automatically unfair.

The crucial questions are, therefore: does an employee believe that Covid-19 poses a serious and imminent danger to them, and is this a reasonable belief for them to hold? Although the answers will turn on the circumstances of each case, it is likely that in the current crisis many employees will reasonably hold such a belief, and so have the right to stay at home without detriment or dismissal.

Whilst an Employment Tribunal might be convinced that in workplaces where protective equipment is provided and social distancing rules are strictly adhered to, the risk of infection is sufficiently reduced to bar a reasonable belief in imminent danger this would be considered on a case by case basis. The fears or many employees who genuinely believe they are in danger if they go into work should be taken seriously particularly vulnerable groups of employees, or where the employer has not provided appropriate protective equipment or failed to introduce and enforce social distancing rules.

Employment law services

For your business

Continuation of Business
Employment
Commercial Property
Dispute Resolution
Company Commercial
Insolvency
Emergency Injunctions

For you and your family

Employment
Residential Property
Personal Insolvency
Wills
Lasting Power of Attorney
Probate
Family Law

Contact us now for advice on the legal considerations involved in protecting you, your family and your business from the impact of coronavirus.

Latest Updates

What Our Clients Say

“I would like to say a huge thank you to Winston Kan of OGR Stock Denton LLP for the outstanding work he did on my car accident case. He supported me and my family through the long and exhausting process. There were times when I was ready to give up but he patiently and supportively guided me all the way. All the best wishes from me and my family.” – Hana

“Winston Kan & Michael Stock of OGR Stock Denton LLP have been a great support throughout the process and Winston has demonstrated the highest levels of professionalism and genuine care throughout this difficult process. I highly recommend these lawyers, they are very attentive and honourable.” – Aziza

“A big thank you to Susan Bernstein for her help and support during my redundancy process, you made the legal part stress free and easy to follow. I fully trust your work and will recommend your services in the future.” – Meital

“All round brilliant team at OGR. After being badly let down by another solicitor, Priti Shah sorted our parents’ probates quickly and efficiently. She is very knowledgeable and on the ball and structured things in such a way she saved us lots of money. We also had conveyancing done by Ben Menaham which was smooth and hassle free and overseen by Michael Stock. Thank you.” – Monica

“I called you with a difficult situation and within 30 minutes you had addressed the main issue and very clinically identified what needed to be done. Your attention to detail and your work approach are of such a high standard that i have no doubt whatsoever that any client you deal with will only have good things to say. You are a true ambassador to your firm and your profession, with the care you show and advice you give. I would like to thank you again for the wonderful job you did at such short notice and i have no hesitation in using your services again and recommending your firm.” – Meir

“ We completed our home move in June, beating the Stamp Duty deadline by 4 days, and were extremely satisfied with the way the whole selling and buying process was handled by Robert Rosenberg. He was super efficient and communicated with us constantly throughout the process. We highly recommend him. and OHR Stock Denton, to anyone looking for a painless and stress-free experience. ” – Colin

“I must thank you Ian, and Stephen, for your professionalism though the complex and protracted negotiations and for the support, understanding and patience you have shown me personally throughout.” – Malcolm

“I owe you a great debt of gratitude for the kind, helpful, empathic way you dealt with me and went about your business at a time in my life when I was suffering huge emotional pain. I did not really understand what was happening to me but you did, and your advice was invaluable”. – Stephen Wiser

Contact Our Legal Team

Name(Required)
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Recent Insights

Go to Top