Can you refuse to work because of Coronavirus?

Information from the TUC, published 11th May 2020.

What are your rights if you refuse to work because of safety concerns over coronavirus at your workplace?

Last night, the prime minister encouraged workers who can’t work from home and who don’t work in industries that are closed down to return to work.

This announcement took unions and employers by surprise – and it poses a serious threat to workers’ safety.

So what are workers’ rights to refuse to work if they are worried?

Above all: all workers have a right to be safe at work, wherever they work and whatever they do. Coronavirus does not change this.

Employers must do a risk assessment

There are existing laws which already protect workers.

It’s a legal requirement, under the Health and Safety at Work Regulations Act 1974, for bosses to carry out a workplace risk assessment. Employers must also take the actions that come from their risk assessment.

These will include enabling working from homewhere possible, ensuring good hygiene and cleanliness, and making sure workers can be at least two metres apart at all times. Where these actions don’t mitigate the risk, workers may need personal protective equipment.

Employers must also enable extremely vulnerable workers in the shielded category to observe NHS advice, and protect other vulnerable or pregnant workers. Further government guidance is expected in the coming days.

For more information from UNISON on your rights at work click here.

Click here for Government guidance on working safely during Coronavirus.