Can an Employer force an Employee back to work?
Adrian Green, Employment Solicitor at Kerseys explains:-
In pre-coronavirus times I would have most likely said yes. This is because the vast majority of employment contracts specify where an employee must work and when they will need to be there.
But, in the current climate, the answer is a little less straightforward.
Duty of Care
All employers owe a duty of care to their employees. As such, an employer should not force an employee to return to the office if it will potentially put them in harm’s way. To understand the risks posed by re-opening their workplace, an employer should carry out a risk assessment.
This is something that the government recommends that employers do in its COVID-19 return to the office guidance.
As part of the process of producing a risk assessment, an employer should consult with any employee groups such as a workplace union or committee. An employer should only re-open their workplace once they have completed their risk assessment and put in place all the necessary policies and processes to deal with the identified risks.
If an employee has concerns about returning to the office then the first step is for them to let their employer know about those concerns.
For example, an employee may have particular concerns about using public transport to travel to or from work or working in an open-plan office with other colleagues. The employer should explain to the employee how they are making the workplace safe and the measures they are implementing to bring the risks down to an acceptable level.
If an employee still has concerns then they can make a flexible working request, which can include a request by the employee to be allowed to work remotely. Their employer will need to consider any such request in a reasonable manner. They will also need to justify their decision if they refuse to allow the employee to work flexibly.Employment Law - Employers Employment Law - Employees
How Kerseys Can Help
Kerseys Solicitors Employment Law specialists are on hand to advise you further.
Please contact us at [email protected] or alternatively telephone Ipswich 01473 213311 or Colchester 01206 584584, where we will be happy to arrange a telephone call or virtual online meeting with you.