Returning From Furlough - What to do if you feel vulnerable to catching COVID-19

22nd May 2020

As lockdown starts to lift, more and more Employees will be returning to work. It is perfectly normal for Employees to feel anxious about their safety.

Your Employer has a legal duty under Health & Safety legislation to provide you with a safe place to work.  As part of that duty, Employers should be implementing policies to ensure that the workplace is safe for you to return to.

Before returning, request in writing, for a copy of your Employer’s return to work policy so that you can read this before you return. I would expect your Employer to distribute the policy to all Employees prior to returning in any event as this policy will set out what your Employer expects you to do in the workplace to ensure the safety of you and your colleagues.

If there is no policy in place, ask your Employer how they intend to ensure that the workplace is safe for you to return to. Again, do this in writing.

If your Employer cannot show that it has taken reasonable steps to provide you with safe place of work and as a result you feel that by returning to work you are in serious and imminent danger, then you do not have to return to work. If you decide not to return to work, make sure that you write to your Employer explaining the reasons why you do not feel that it is safe to return. State that you are happy to return to work and willing to return to work when your Employer is able to provide you with a safe place to work.

Once you have returned to work, if there are breaches of the return to work policy that places you in serious and imminent danger then you will need to bring this to the attention of your Employer. If the breach is very serious, then you can go home until the situation is sorted. It is important that you bring the issues to your Employers attention as they cannot remedy a situation if they do not know about it. Do this in writing, making sure that you set out what acts have happened and why you consider this to be dangerous and if you are able to state which parts of the Employers policy has been breached then do so.

If you suffer any adverse behaviour from your Employer or any manager for raising any queries regarding feeling vulnerable at work or for not returning to work, then this may amount to detrimental behaviour which is prohibited under the Employment Rights Act.

If you lose your job as a result of raising issues surrounding feeling safe at work due to COVID-19 then this is likely to amount to an automatic unfair dismissal if your belief was reasonable.

You do not need to have been employed for two years or more to bring a claim for compensation in these circumstances for unfair dismissal, neither do you need to have been employed for any minimum length of time to bring a claim for detrimental behaviour.

If you feel that you have been treated unfairly because you have raised issues surrounding your safety, or if you feel unable to return to work, take legal advice.

Here at Gales, we offer Employees a free initial 1/2hr interview where we can give you legal advice about what to do going forward.

Telephone 012020 422622 to make an appointment.