4 Reasons Why Employees Might Not Be Able To Come Back To Work, And What Employers Can Do About It Jul 23, 2020Views: 715
So, your business is finally ready to reopen, you’ve researched all of the things that employers need to do to make their workplace COVID-19 safe, and you’ve made significant changes to how your employees work to ensure their safety as the pandemic continues. But one or more of your employees say they aren’t ready to come back to work. What can you, as an employer, do?
It’s important to understand in this scenario why your employee is hesitant to return to work. As an employer, being as flexible and facilitating during this unprecedented time can go a long way to addressing employee concerns. However, you’ve also got a business to run and it's very likely that you’ll need every single member of staff to come back to work as soon as possible to ensure your businesses survival. So, how can you be a fair and understanding employer while also getting your business back on its feet?
4 Reasons Employees Might Not Be Willing To Return To Work
To help you navigate this potential problem, BrightPay’s employment law expert has identified the 4 most common reasons employees have for not wanting to return to work, along with her suggestions on how employers can and should approach them.
1. They’re Not Satisfied With The Measures Taken
Sections 44 and 100 of the Employment Rights Act deal with unlawful detriment and unlawful dismissal, including circumstances of danger. Under the Act, where an employee has a reasonable belief that their workplace poses a serious and imminent threat, they can leave the place of work, refuse to return to their place of work, or take appropriate steps to protect themselves and others from that danger.
Should this situation arise, it would be unlawful for an employer to dismiss someone because they had taken one of the above actions. Up until now most people would have thought of this in terms of a fire or an exposed wire on a machine. The question now is; Does COVID-19 fall under these sections? Many will argue that it certainly does because the risk of the virus is imminent.
We have no case law to guide us on this. But it is reasonable to assume that if you ultimately dismissed someone because they wouldn’t come to work due to health & safety concerns, there is a high likelihood that you could find yourself arguing the level of danger at an Employment Tribunal. Therefore, it is in your best interest as an employer to instead do what you can to address the employees concerns so that they feel safe returning to work.
2. They’re Concerned About Travelling To Work
The Prime Minister told employees that they should walk or cycle to work if possible, or drive, but to try and avoid public transport. Of course, that is not going to be possible for all and some or many of your employees may have to take public transport in order to get to work. It’s very possible that they may have health and safety concerns regarding this.
Generally speaking, the journey into work is the employee’s responsibility rather than the employers. The contractual obligation is to come to work and work. With that being said, as an employer you really need to be as sympathetic as possible to this issue as it is a valid concern for your employees health and safety, even if it’s not your direct responsibility.
Would it be fair to dismiss someone because they were afraid to take the tube? It’s likely that a tribunal, should it come to that, will be sympathetic towards the employee. With this in mind, it really would be best advised to look for alternative arrangements such as allowing employees to work from home as much as possible or even providing other transport options for your employees such as mini-bus pick up or subsidising bicycle-hire temporarily.
3. They have childcare issues
This is likely to be one of the most common barriers facing employees returning to work. Until childcare services are back to their previous capacity, employees are going to struggle to make themselves available for work. This is nobody’s fault, so should be approached with an understanding attitude.
The ideal solution to this problem is to allow employees in this situation to work from home. However, there will be cases where an employee can’t work from home but they can’t come into work either because of childcare issues. Employers have a few options in this case:
- You could put them on unpaid leave
- You could put them on annual leave, although they’re unlikely to have enough annual leave to cover the period needed
- You could put them on furlough until they can return to work.
4. They Are A Vulnerable Person
As we all know, people with underlying conditions are deemed at higher risk of COVID-19 by public health experts. This group of people have been advised to self-isolate to an even more extreme measure than the general population, to protect themselves from harm. For these vulnerable people, returning to work can put those efforts in jeopardy.
For these employees, placing them on/continuing their furlough leave may be the only option employers have.
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