Post-coronavirus lockdown: Letter to employees who do not wish to return to the workplace
This document is not suitable for use while the current lockdown continues. Once the lockdown has ended or the Government or Public Health England guidance has changed the document will be reviewed and amended accordingly.
This Post-coronavirus lockdown: Letter to employees who do not wish to return to the workplace should be used for employees who are reluctant to return to the workplace as the coronavirus lockdown is lifted. On 17 July, Boris Johnson changed the official guidance to employers, saying that, with effect from 1 August, employers can bring staff back to work if they believe it is COVID-19 safe. Johnson said: “We’re going to give employers more discretion and ask them to make decisions about how their staff can work safely. That could mean continuing to work from home, which is one way of working safely and which has worked for many employers and employees. Or it could mean making workplaces safe”.
The full advice can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/our-plan-to-rebuild-the-uk-governments-covid-19-recovery-strategy/the-next-chapter-in-our-plan-to-rebuild-the-uk-governments-covid-19-recovery-strategy--2 .
As of 1 August in England, the extremely clinically vulnerable are no longer advised to shield and are able to return to work if their workplace is COVID-19 secure. However, employers should consult individually with clinically vulnerable and extremely vulnerable employees (including pregnant employees) and proceed with particular caution before requiring them to return to work.
All workplaces should follow the “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines, the aim of which is to ensure the risk of infection is as low as possible, while allowing as many people as possible to resume their livelihoods: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19
This letter explains to employees why they are being recalled to the workplace and the special safety measures that have been put in place to protect them. Employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of their employees and must follow the government guidance relating to their business sector. Employers must also carry out a risk assessment of the risks in their own workplace and take the necessary steps to address those risks before recalling employees to the workplace. Example risk assessments can be found in the Simply-Docs COVID-19 Back to Work folder. There is also an optional clause that employers can use if the employer implements additional safeguards suggested by the employee.
Employees must obey an employer's “reasonable instructions” and this is likely to include requiring employees to return from the coronavirus lockdown to work in their usual workplace in circumstances where:
· the work cannot be done from home; and
· the employer has put in place safe working measures in line with government and Public Health England guidance.
However, an employee can refuse to return to the workplace if they reasonably believe that they are in ‘serious and imminent’ danger and so employers should ensure that they carry out comprehensive risk assessments and continue to consult with their employees about how safe working measures work in practice.
This Post-coronavirus lockdown: Letter to employees who do not wish to return to the workplace also provides for the employee’s line manager to contact the employee to discuss arrangements for the employee’s return to work. This might be in order to discuss practical matters, such as staggered start times, or to address concerns the employee may have in respect of returning to the workplace.