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Coronavirus - if you're worried about working

This advice applies to England

If you’re worried about work because of coronavirus, there are:

  • laws your employer should be following to make sure you’re safe
  • things to think about if you’re deciding whether to work
  • ways you might be able to keep getting paid if you decide not to work

You might be more worried about working if you:

  • are pregnant
  • are over 70

If you have to self-isolate

The law says you have to stay at home and self-isolate if:

  • you or someone you live with tests positive for coronavirus
  • the NHS tell you to self-isolate because someone you had contact with has coronavirus

If you have to self-isolate, it’s against the law to leave your home to go to work.

You must tell your employer that you have to self-isolate. If you’re an agency worker, tell your agency. It’s worth telling them in writing so you can prove it later.

The police can give you a £50 fine if you don’t tell your employer or agency. If you already work from home, you don’t have to tell them.

If your employer or agency knows you have to self-isolate but asks you to go to work anyway, tell them it’s against the law for them to ask you. The police can fine them £1,000 – or up to £10,000 if they’ve been fined for breaking the rules before.

You can find more information about when you’re allowed to leave your home and what will happen if you break the rules.

Check the guidelines for staying safe at work

The government have said you should work from home if you can. If they can't, your employer must do things to keep you safe from coronavirus. This could be by:

  • letting you travel to work at quieter times of the day
  • reducing how much face-to-face contact you have with the public
  • making sure that staff stay at least 2 metres apart in your workplace

You can read the government guidance for making workplaces safe on GOV.UK.

It’s a good idea to check if you’re disabled under the Equality Act 2010. A disability could be physical or mental - you could be covered even if you don’t consider yourself disabled. If you’re disabled it could be easier to negotiate with your employer about making your workplace safer.

If you've been shielding because you're extremely clinically vulnerable

Government guidance says you can go back to work from 1 August 2020 if you can’t work from home and your workplace is safe enough.

If you were previously shielding and working from home, your employer shouldn’t force you to return to work. 

If you’re in an area where there’s a local lockdown, you might get a letter from the NHS telling you to shield again. If you didn’t get a letter and you think you should have, ask your GP.

You can check if you’re ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’ according to the guidance on GOV.UK if you’re not sure.

If you’re pregnant

Your employer has an extra responsibility to make changes to your job so it’s safe for you to keep working. If they can’t make changes to make sure you’re safe, they could give you a different role to do.

If it’s still not safe for you to keep working, you might have a right to stay at home and still get your full pay.

Check your rights at work if you’re pregnant.

If you’re disabled

Your employer might have an extra responsibility to make changes to your work to help you work. For example, they might have to give you a different job to do. 

This is called making ‘reasonable adjustments’ – check how to ask your employer to make reasonable adjustments.

You might also be able to get support from Access to Work to help you work. For example, they could pay taxi fares if you can’t safely use public transport because of coronavirus. You can find out more about Access to Work on GOV.UK.

If you think your workplace isn't safe

Talk to your employer if you think there’s more they could do to keep you safe. Try to be constructive and explain what you need to happen so that you’ll feel safe at work.

If you don't want to work

Your employer doesn’t usually have to pay you if you stop working. There are things you might be able to agree with your employer that mean you can still be paid if you stop working.

If you're not already furloughed, you can ask your employer if they'll furlough you. You’ll be paid 80% of your normal pay up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.

Your employer will only be able to furlough you if either:

  • you were already furloughed for at least 3 weeks before 1 July 2020
  • you’re returning from maternity leave, adoption leave, paternity leave, shared parental leave or parental bereavement leave

If you’re returning from one of these types of leave, your employer must also have used the scheme to furlough other employees before 1 July 2020.

If you’re currently furloughed, ask your employer to keep you on the scheme.

You should tell your employer if you have a health condition that means you’re ‘extremely vulnerable’ or ‘vulnerable’ - they might be more likely to agree to furlough you or extend your furlough. You should explain that the government guidance says you need to take extra care to avoid contact with people.

If you can, ask your doctor for evidence of your condition.

If your employer agrees to furlough you, find out how the scheme works

If your employer can't or won’t furlough you

There are other things you can do:  

If your employer won’t help with your concerns

You should contact your nearest Citizens Advice. An adviser could help you negotiate with your employer.

If you think your work should be closed

Some businesses have been told to close because of coronavirus - for example, nightclubs, dance halls and discos.

Check which businesses should be closed on GOV.UK. 

If you’re still working and you think the business should be closed, you can report your employer to the police or Trading Standards. Find your local Trading Standards Office on GOV.UK.

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