UNISON has updated the guidance on COVID-19 and disabled, shielding and vulnerable workers.
If you are disabled, pregnant, over 70 or have an underlying health condition you should take extra precautions to stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic and may previously have been told to ‘shield’.
People who are immunosuppressed or immunocompromised may be particularly at risk and may not respond as well to COVID-19 vaccines.
Can my employer refuse home working?
The general instruction to work from home will change in England on 19 July 2021. According to the latest guidance, it will no longer be necessary for the government to instruct people to work from home.
Work from home rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also likely to change over the coming weeks.
Your employer must provide you with the support required to comply with the advice for where you live.
Despite the new guidance, employers still have a legal responsibility to protect their employees and others from risks to their health and safety. This includes undertaking risk assessments and providing information and consultation to identify any additional steps they need to take to keep you safe. Working from home should continue to be considered for disabled, pregnant and older workers and those with an underlying health condition. This is particularly the case for those who are immunosuppressed or immunocompromised.
Refusal of home working for a disabled person might amount to unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act.
If your current role cannot be done from home your employer should consider whether you can be temporarily re-deployed to a role that would allow home working until it’s safe for you to return to the workplace.
Alternatively, your employer should consider offering special paid leave and other types of adjustments if you cannot work from home.If home working is not reasonable, disabled workers who are at high risk and those who are pregnant should be offered the option of the safest available on-site roles, particularly if they might normally spend time within two metres of others. Your employer should carefully assess what is an acceptable level of risk.
If your employer won’t let you work from home or allow paid leave, or has not undertaken a satisfactory risk assessment, please contact your local UNISON branch for help.
If you need support to work at home or in the workplace you can apply for Access to Work. Access to Work will provide support for the disability-related extra costs of working that are beyond standard reasonable adjustments an employer must provide.
Employers should also do everything they reasonably can to allow staff over the age of 70 to work from home where possible and should consider the risks to all older workers, particularly those working in roles where social distancing is difficult to maintain.
If you have been experiencing symptoms of ‘Long Covid’ or ‘post Covid syndrome’ then this could mean that your employer must treat you as a disabled person for the purposes of rights under the Equality Act 2010. This includes the duty to make reasonable adjustments and other protections against unlawful disability discrimination.
Other questions are answered on the National UNISON post:
- What if I have been shielding and am at high risk of becoming seriously ill from coronavirus?
- What if I have family members who were shielding?