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Sunday 29th March 2020

Coronavirus: Employer refusing to let you work from home? Your rights explained

Brits are scared of being fired

With the country under lockdown, Boris Johnson has instructed Brits to work from home where possible.

However, what happens if your employer insists you come into work?

Should you go in and risk your health?

Or should you stay at home and risk the wrath of your boss?

Should you risk your health or insist that you work from home? (Credit: Unsplash)

Well, if you're considered vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic, the law is on your side.

The over 70s, people with underlying health conditions and pregnant women are being told to stay isolated at home for 12 weeks.

Read more: M&S teams up with Deliveroo to make home deliveries from its BP garages

However, the news didn't go down well with some employers.

The Telegraph reports that a number of workers who fall into that group feel they have no choice but to go into work as normal.

Mums to be

One woman, who is five months pregnant and works in a law firm, asked if she could work from home.

She was told no at first so asked again. Her employer said she could if she "really wanted to" but added it would be "noted" on her record.

Another who was due to go on maternity leave in just seven days was also denied.

Pregnant women are considered vulnerable and should stay isolated (Credit: Unsplash)

She is said to be considering unpaid leave.

Employment lawyer Michael Legge said vulnerable people being forced to go into work may be able to claim disability discrimination.

Read more: Police report cases of domestic abuse due to coronavirus

He said: "It is a health and safety risk. Health conditions such as diabetes and pregnancy should both be covered by the Equalities Act."

The lawyer also said if you're vulnerable and fired because you don't go into work you can take it to an appeal.

However, other lawyers told the paper it would depend on "each individual case".

No immediate right to work from home

Those not at risk have no immediate right to work at home – despite Boris's pleas.

He has said that public transport should only be used by key workers.

Health conditions such as diabetes and pregnancy should both be covered by the Equalities Act.

The PM also said that Brits should limit their time outdoors to essential shopping and one hour of daily exercise.

However, because Boris told Brits to work from home "where possible", companies do have some wiggle room.

Bosses don't have to let employees work from home (Credit: Unsplash)

As a result, while they have a duty to act responsibly, they don't have to let you work from home.

Lawyer Naeema Choudry revealed: "If the work is something that could not be done remotely or if there needs to be a certain number of workers in the office, employers are able to tell people to come in."

All employees have the right by law to request flexible working, such as working from home.

Employers can only refuse if they have "reasonable cause" to do so.

However, one mum told us she was worried about getting fired as she struggles to home school her children and work at the same time.

"Scared I'll be fired"

She said: "It's such a worry. On top of all the coronavirus panic, I'm worrying about completing my workload and looking after my kids."

The mum added: "I'm so scared I'll be fired."

One mum told us she was scared she'd be "fired" (Credit: Pixabay)

Parents are entitled to take "dependant leave" to look after their children and they won't be disciplined.

However, the downside is that you may not be paid as it's at your employer's discretion.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries responded to the question of employers "emotionally blackmailing" employees to go into work and threatening them with the sack.

She said: "It's really important that employers stick to the normal principles of workplace health."

Jenny added: "We've made it very clear – if people can work from home they should be able to. If they can't there may be adaptations that they can do in the workplace. We've also made it clear what sort of distances and practical measures can be made to ensure people are safe."

She said workplaces have today (March 26) been reminded of the guidelines by the Health & Safety Executive.

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