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  • Help! My employee won’t come into work in local lockdown. What do I do?

Help! My employee won’t come into work in local lockdown. What do I do?

Can you make staff go to work when they’re not allowed to socialise indoors with anyone from a different household? Let’s take a look at the rules…

Monday, Sep 07, 2020
3 min read

The UK lockdown may have lifted and restrictions are being eased, but some areas—such as Aberdeen, Leicester and Greater Manchester—have been put under ‘local lockdown’.

Even if you’re not in one of the affected areas, local lockdowns will become more common as the government tries to prevent the spread of COVID-19, so it’s important to be prepared.

What does a local lockdown mean?

It means that an outbreak of coronavirus has been identified in a specific area, and the government has temporarily implemented stricter social distancing measures in that area to control the spread of the virus.

What are the local lockdown rules?

It’s not one blanket rule for every local lockdown—the government is acting with relevant local authorities to tailor the rules for each area.

But, generally speaking, if you live in an area under local lockdown then you must not meet any people you don’t live with inside a private home or garden (unless these people form part of your ‘support bubble’).

Can you meet in other places?

Yes and no. You can’t meet anyone from another household anywhere indoors. This means you can’t socialise with people in places such as pubs, restaurants, cafés, shops, places of worship, leisure and entertainment venues…

However, you can meet in outside places, such as parks, in groups of up to six people from multiple households. You can only meet in groups larger than six people if everyone is exclusively from two households or support bubbles.

Does that mean everywhere is closed?

Nope. While some premises must remain closed in certain places (for example, gyms and swimming pools will stay closed in Bradford), in most areas under local lockdown everywhere is open as normal.

But to go to them, you have to follow the rules—only visit these places alone, with people from your household or people from your support bubble. Again — you can’t meet anyone from another household anywhere indoors.

So, surely people can’t go to work, right?

Not quite. If the government hasn’t instructed premises to close (like the swimming pools in Bradford) then businesses and workplaces can stay open and staff can keep going to work.

Employers may make the decision to keep their staff working from home, but there’s no legal requirement to do this.

Hang on… you can’t be indoors with people from different households, but you can go to work?

Yes, we know it’s a bit confusing. And you might get kickback from some employees who feel it doesn’t make sense that they can’t see a friend or relative in a private garden, yet they’re being asked to travel to work in an office with lots of people…

But public transport and the workplace are controlled environments, where healthy & safety and social distancing measures remain in place.

It’s a legal requirement for people to wear a mask on public transport, and all workplaces must implement COVID-19 secure safety measures.

What if my employees don’t want to come to work in a local lockdown?

In normal circumstances, if an employee refused to come into work then you could discipline or dismiss them. But the current climate is far from normal, and this is a tricky issue…

Here’s the legal bit:

Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 protects workers who leave work, or refuse to return, when they have a reasonable belief there’s a ‘serious or imminent danger’ to their safety.

So, does COVID-19 qualify as ‘serious or imminent danger’ under Section 44? Right now, there’s no definitive answer and it varies from case to case.

But disciplining or dismissing an employee who felt worried about their health and safety could get you in a whole lot of legal trouble, so you need to tread carefully on this shaky ground.

How can I encourage staff to come to work?

If an employee doesn’t want to come into work, you need to know why—but in this coronavirus climate it’s probably because they’re worried about their health.

Try to reassure them by explaining the health & safety measures you’ve put in place. Share the results of your workplace’s risk assessment that shows it’s a safe place to be.

You could even make a short smartphone video to send staff—seeing the safety measures in action could help your people feel much more confident about returning to work.

What if staff still don’t want to come back?

If it is possible for an employee to carry out their job role at home, you should consider allowing them to work from home during a local lockdown.

If it is not possible for an employee to carry their job role at home, then you shouldn’t force them to return when they’re worried about their safety—but you also don’t need to pay them, either.

Bright Wellbeing & Counselling

In the current climate it’s understandable that people are feeling stressed and anxious about work, whether it’s about their health, safety, or job security. Bright Wellbeing & Counselling is here to help.

It’s our EAP (employee assistance programme), and it offers a range of wellbeing support for your staff, from a 24/7 support line to quick access to face-to-face counselling.

To find out more about how Bright Wellbeing & Counselling can support you and your staff, speak to one our out experts today. They’ll give you confidential and compassionate advice, and help you to find the perfect EAP for your business and your people. Call now on 0800 783 2806.


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