Employees’ rights during the COVID-19 pandemic
As more people begin to return to the workplace, GMB union has put together a suite of guidance on employees’ rights, including information on safe working environments.
Employees’ legal rights at work
Important: employees should check their employment contract first – contractual rights in almost all situations will be better than the legal minimums explained below (at the very least, contractual rights cannot be less than the legal minimum).
Employers have a duty of care to employees in their work activity.
This means all employers should take all reasonable steps to assess the risk to their workforce from COVID-19, and take measures to reduce the risk to the lowest level that they can. In practice this would include:
- Identifying workers at highest risk – the categories identified by the UK Government can be found here.
- Higher risk workers will need to be prioritised for action and may need specific personal risk assessments
- Allowing working from home and remote working wherever possible
- Providing facilities and time for regular hand washing – including hand sanitiser where needed
- Ensuring that workplaces are kept clean and surfaces are regularly disinfected.
- Providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) where a high risk of exposure to a person with COVID-19 is identified.
GMB has produced an online guide to PPE and some commonly asked questions – read it here.
Unless there is a clause in the contract of employment allowing for lay offs (see below), and if someone is classed as an employee, if they are sent home or are unable to work due to a workplace closure, they should continue to be paid as if they were in work.
Employees who earn on average more than £118 a week are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay of £94.25 a week starting from the fourth day of illness. The rules around SSP have been temporarily changed so that payments start from day one for coronavirus-related absences, including self-isolation.
Time off for dependents
Employees are entitled to reasonable unpaid time off work to deal with an emergency related to a dependent.