By Elena Oara, LLM Student
The Coronavirus outbreak and subsequent protective measures will have a long-lasting impact on the economy, businesses and working lives. Organisations have been forced to make rapid changes to how they operate, and workers had to adapt to new ways of working and living in these unpredictable times.
The experiences of working during the pandemic differed depending on individual circumstances. Whilst some employees have become accustomed to working remotely, others have been furloughed, and many are still going into their normal workplace.
In these tumultuous times, it is important for everyone to know their rights. The immediate response to coronavirus was to simply get on as best as possible and keep the country going, as workers begin to return to workplaces from 1st August 2020, employers should make every effort to comply with Covid-19 Secure guidelines set out by the government. So, what is expected on an employer?
Your employer has a duty of care to protect you, your co-workers and other people who might be affected by their business. This means that employers have duties under health and safety law to make sure that:
To minimise the risk of employees catching Covid-19, employers should consider putting in place the following:
In the context of Covid-19, all employers should take all reasonable steps to protect workers’ health and safety by following the guidelines and also keep in mind that no one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment. For more information on other specific government guidelines please access the GOV.UK link here.
A failure to comply with health and safety obligations could leave employers exposed to claims against them. As an example, the employee could argue that a failure to adequately protect him/her is a breach of the implied duty of trust and confidence and then resign in response to the employer’s fundamental breach and claim constructive unfair dismissal.
The Employment Rights Act 1996, s. 100 provides protection to employees from being dismissed or treated to their detriment if they raise health and safety concerns. As a result of the pandemic, employers should keep in mind that taking disciplinary action against an employee could lead to claims of detriment, discrimination (if the employee received unfavourable treatment based on any characteristic protected under the Equality Act 2010), or unfair dismissal if the employee is dismissed for withdrawing their labour raising health and safety concerns.
If you are being made to return to work when you do not feel safe to do so, or if you need help and legal advice on another employment matter please call SHU Law office on 0114 225 6666 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.