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My workplace is reopening but I feel unsafe returning to work

By Aimee Elia - 11 May 2020

With the prospect of transitioning to level 2 on the horizon, many people will now be contemplating returning to work albeit under somewhat changed circumstances. Naturally, there will be some concerns around risk management of the COVID-19 virus when employees are engaging with members of the public and fellow employees.

Yesterday the government announced that we will be transitioning into level 2 at 11.59 pm, Wednesday 13 May and confirmed that most businesses can open, providing they can do so safely. This will mean compliance with safe distancing practices and PPE if necessary as well as having a contact tracing system in place. The government suggests that all businesses discuss health and safety measures with their employees to identify risks and find ways to safely manage them. Conversely, employees have an obligation to look out for their own health and safety. This means following the risk management processes established by employers and staying home if sick.

For employees who are vulnerable or share their bubbles with vulnerable people, even safe distancing and hygiene practices in the workplace may not allay their fears about returning to work. In this situation, an employee is effectively saying they are not "ready, willing and able" to return to work and this will need to be discussed with their employer and an agreement reached as to the terms on which the employee may continue on leave.

A cautionary note to such employees: if no agreement can be reached in the long term, the employer may consider whether the employee is medically able to perform their role.

This blog is only an overview of the position on health and safety. If you have specific concerns, we recommend you seek legal advice.


Aimee Elia

Claire Mansell


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