Key Workers and Contracts
The government have awarded ‘key worker’ status to a number of professions who are playing a significant role in the fight against coronavirus.
This includes for example, those in health and social care; education and childcare; government; transport; the food industry; the justice system and security bodies, such as the police.
If you are a key worker but need to self-isolate then you should still do so.
There may be a lot of pressure on you to attend work and carry on but be assertive and remember that to attend would be counterproductive to the aim you are trying to achieve. You should self-isolate and follow the advice set out above.
More demands on Key Workers
Given the pressure on all industries, you may find that you are being asked to work somewhere else or to carry out some duties you would not ordinarily be asked to do. If you are not happy with this then take a look at your contract and see if you have agreed to the possibility of having the terms of your contract varied.
For example, if you are a policeman based in Croydon and your contract contains a clause allowing your employer to transfer you to a different location ‘where reasonable to do so’, it might be reasonable for them to transfer you to a hospital in a different borough to provide security there.
You want to help – but need to stay safe.
If your contract does contain a variation clause and your employers request is reasonable then to refuse would be in breach and could potentially warrant disciplinary action.
If the reason for your refusal is because you have not received enough training or you do not feel safe (including because you have not been provided with enough PPE safety equipment) then you should state this to your employer in writing and contact us for further advice. If you have a union representative then you should also contact them to see what support can be offered.
Can Key workers work form Home?
For all employees, if you are requesting to work from home in line with government guidance on coronavirus, which states that you must only leave home to go to work where this ‘absolutely cannot be done from home’, then make this explicitly clear to your employer.
You should request this regardless of the amount of time you have been employed. If your job requires you to attend your place of work then there may be other adjustments that you can request such as an empty office room or a parking space to enable you to drive into work rather than using public transport.
Duty of Care to Kkey Workers
Although your employer is not under a legal obligation to allow you to work from home, you still have to maintain social distancing of 2 meters, where possible, even at work.
Your employer has a general duty of care towards you which will include putting certain measures in place to keep you safe. This is particularly relevant if you have been identified as vulnerable to coronavirus.
However, if you still don’t feel comfortable attending work because you are afraid of catching coronavirus, speak with your employer and see what more can be done to support you. You might want to take annual leave or unpaid leave until you feel the threat has been reduced.
Whatever you do, do not point blank refuse to go to work without firstly effectively communicating with your employer and trying to reach a resolution. Behaving in this way is silly because it could lead to disciplinary action being taken against you and could result in you being dismissed without notice pay.
On the other hand, if it’s your employer who handles the situation badly then their actions could potentially give rise to a claim for breach of their duty of care towards you. In addition, there could also be a breach in the implied term of mutual trust and confidence in your employment contract.
Under these circumstances, you may be in a position to bring a claim against your employer. Please contact us for advice on whether this applies to you. Ultimately, if you decide that you have to self-isolate rather than go to work, you could communicate this to your employer and try to claim SSP as outlined in the article headed ‘Self-Isolation and Sick Pay’ or Furlough Leave which is discussed in detail in our article headed ‘The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (Furlough Leave)’.
You can find updated guidance on the use of Personal Protective Equipment for healthcare workers here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-infection-prevention-and-control/covid-19-personal-protective-equipment-ppe
You can find updated guidance from the Health and Safety Executive, who regulate and enforce health and safety here: https://www.hse.gov.uk/news/coronavirus.htm?utm_source=hse.gov.uk&utm_medium=refferal&utm_campaign=coronavirus&utm_term=hse-page&utm_content=news-page
You can find updated guidance from ACAS, an independent government body who deal with employment disputes, here: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus