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HomeInsights & AdviceUnderstanding your rights as an employee during Covid-19

Understanding your rights as an employee during Covid-19

by John Saunders
19th Jan 21 3:58 pm

Covid-19 has been a testing time for a lot of businesses and this has created new challenges for managers and their employees, having to deal with sick days, furlough and other uncertainties.

With this in mind, we spoke to Matthew Sullivan, an employment lawyer from Kramer Sullivan, to get his views on understanding your rights as an employee during covid-19.

“For starters, as an employee, you need to know your basic rights. You should not be forced into work if you are feeling unwell or feel uncomfortable working around others. You should also not be disloyal to your employer, since your contribution is still very important and this could be a crucial time for the company to survive.”

You should not be forced into the workplace

Some managers are a bit more flexible or lenient when it comes to working in an office – with some encouraging all their staff to come back in full swing or according to time schedules. Some employers are a lot more strict, not allowing anyone back to the office.

“You should not feel forced to work in an office if you are concerned about catching or spreading coronavirus,” explains Sullivan.

“You need to have a good dialogue with your manager or your employer and also highlight the benefits of working remotely. You should be able to access remote working tools, whether it is vpns for work, video conferencing or using a laptop.”

You should be allocated leave if you are feeling unwell

If you are showing signs of covid-19, you should be staying at home and not going into the office, isolating for 14 days minimum.

Sullivan comments: “If you have symptoms of covid, such as loss of taste and smell and a temperature, you should alert your employer and look to get a covid test as soon as possible. You should not be required to go into a common workplace and this is something your employer should adhere to.”

You cannot be fired for having covid

“If you are fired for having covid, there could be grounds for constructive dismissal.”

“The only case I can imagine you being fired on the right terms is if you consciously knew that you had covid and were spreading it to other staff members, knowingly.”

Have a plan B in case you are made redundant

Covid has seen a number of companies fall into administration or vastly reduce their number of staff members, including industries such as hotels, hospitality, travel and leisure.

“Unfortunately, it might be important to have a plan B if you have been furloughed for the second time and your employer is starting to struggle in this climate. You do not have to be disloyal to the organisation, but certainly you can start warming up your CV, putting out feelers or speaking to other connections in case your employment circumstances change.”

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