My boss says I must come back into work. Is he right?
Just about the most common question we are being asked at the moment relates to returning to work.
With the furlough scheme due to end at the end of October, it’s likely that many more employees will get a message from their workplace telling them to return to their office, factory or workstation.
But if you are genuinely concerned for your health and wellbeing, do you have to do what your boss is telling you.
There’s no straightforward answer – but whatever your situation, the best starting point is to try to engage in an open dialogue with your boss.
Here we run through some of the most commonly asked questions.
Can my boss insist that I come back?
Essentially, yes – but only as long as it is safe to do so.
If you are asked to return, and fail to do so, you’re technically absent without authorisation. This can lead to disciplinary procedure being started against you and you are unlikely to be paid for any time when you fail to attend.
If you are concerned about workplace safety in the wake of the pandemic, discuss these with your employer rather than simply digging your heels in and just failing to clock in. You have a right to protect yourself from danger, but should seek to discuss your concerns rather than simply taking unilateral action
What steps should my boss be taking to keep me safe?
Employers must take all reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of their workforce. In terms of Covid-19, this means enforcing social distancing where possible, implementing one-way systems and shift patterns to reduce exposure, making sure that cleaning regimes are robust and regular, introducing hand sanitising stations and ensuring staff are aware of the correct procedures for reporting cases of coronavirus.
There are many other steps – such as introducing work bubbles, issuing PPE equipment and staff transport policies – which can also help, and all should be done in consultation with employees who can make their own suggestions about additional measures which would help.
The government has issued extensive guidance for employers – including undertaking the necessary risk assessment - to ensure that workplaces are Covid-19.
What do I do if my colleagues refuse to stick to social distancing rules?
One thing we have all learned over the last few months is that not everybody sticks to the rules. If you find yourself working with colleagues who won’t keep their distance you should make your employer aware straight away. They must then deal with the issue to ensure they are meeting their duty of care to all staff.
Should my employer provide me with PPE?
Guidance over PPE is specific to each sector and industry – but there is no blanket advice that you must wear it at work. If social distancing is being maintained, there is no need for PPE. If you feel it is being breached, or you are being exposed to risk, discuss the situation immediately with your boss.
What if I have been shielding? Do I still need to go back?
The rules over shielding changed at the start of last month and it means that those who are shielding are now no longer required not to go into work. That means you can no longer use it as a valid justification for not going back to work, though it is clearly something you should discuss with your employer so that they can respond to your concerns.
I haven’t been able to sort childcare out yet? Can I stay off work while I organise it?
This is another area where an open discussion with your employer can be helpful. Explain your situation and see if you can work from home in any way. The Prime Minister has urged employers to be reasonable in this area .
Can I ask to continue to be furloughed?
Yes – but this is a short-term measure and something your employer must agree to. The scheme closes on October 31.
Remember, your employer has a duty of care to you and all employees. If you think you are being placed at risk you must raise the issue. If you still feel vulnerable seek expert advice. We can help with a free consultation. Just click the button.