Q&As

What action can an employer take against an employee who refuses to return to work in the workplace because they are frightened of catching coronavirus (COVID-19)?

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Published on LexisPSL on 20/01/2021

The following Employment Q&A provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • What action can an employer take against an employee who refuses to return to work in the workplace because they are frightened of catching coronavirus (COVID-19)?
  • Acas guidance
  • Health and safety duties
  • Employees with a disability
  • Clinically extremely vulnerable, clinically vulnerable and pregnant staff
  • Disciplinary action

What action can an employer take against an employee who refuses to return to work in the workplace because they are frightened of catching coronavirus (COVID-19)?

This Q&A assumes that the third national lockdown that applies from 6 January 2021, applies.

For further information, see:

  1. The Cabinet Office guidance: National lockdown: Stay at Home

  2. Practice Note: Coronavirus (COVID-19)—national lockdown restrictions 6 January to 28 March 2021 [Archived]

There are a number of issues for the employer to consider when deciding how to deal with this situation, including:

  1. what level of national or local restriction applies

  2. the nature of the workplace, and whether any restrictions on opening apply

  3. the nature of the employee’s work, including whether there is scope for the employee to work from home or for alternative arrangements to be made

  4. the nature of the employee’s concerns, including whether the employer has met its health and safety duties

  5. the employee’s circumstances, including:

    1. whether they are disabled and therefore entitled to the protection afforded by the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010)

    2. whether they are clinically extremely vulnerable, clinically vulnerable or higher-risk, or pregnant

    3. whether they live in the same household as someone who falls within one of those categories

There are, of course, a number of workplaces that must remain closed. For an up-to-date list of these, see the National lockdown: Stay at Home guidance, in particular the

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