This really depends on what measures you have put in place to ensure their health and safety especially in the current circumstances.
What rights do my staff have?
Employees are protected from dismissal and suffering a detriment for a number of reasons, these include:
- where they brought to their employer’s attention circumstances connected with their work which they reasonably believed were harmful or potentially harmful to health or safety
- in circumstances of danger … believed to be serious and imminent … which he could not reasonably have expected to avert, he left or refused to return to his place of work
- in circumstances of danger … he took … appropriate steps to protect himself or other persons
What do I need to do to combat this?
Employers should ensure that their workplaces meet current public health advice and that risks associated with COVID are minimised as far as possible. Consideration should be given to what PPE needs to be in place, a thorough COVID risk assessment and maintaining social distancing. In fact, we have had a really good example provided to us this week by one of our clients who have brought in the following to minimise risk associated with COVID 19. They are asking their staff to come back informing them of the following measures they have put in place:
- perplex screens between desks with desks spaced out to adhere to the 2 meter distancing guidelines
- PPE including face masks, gloves, hand sanitisers
- A three day working week (with staff who can work from home working from home on the other two days)
- A staff rota system so that not everyone is in at the same time
If the employer has put everything in place to minimise risk and to provide a healthy and safe working environment and the employee still refuses to come to work this could be classed as unauthorised absence or failure to follow a reasonable management request which could result in non payment of wages and/or disciplinary action.
Can I dismiss them if they refuse to return?
Taking such action still requires you to follow your disciplinary procedures and usual employment law practices and we advise if you wish to take this action you contact your HR Consultant or take advice from an expert. Unauthorised absence and failure to follow a reasonable management request may not necessarily be classed as Gross Misconduct resulting in immediate dismissal and therefore you need to ensure you are making fair and reasonable decisions.
For further advice on COVID impacted employment practices or any other HR matter please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01206 700690.
You may also like to read: “What staffing options do I have when the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Grant Stops” https://www.hrelite.co.uk/what-staffing-options-do-i-have-when-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme-grant-stops/
This blog was written by Rachel Barratt, Director of HR Elite, who has over 23 years HR experience and specialises in helping company owners create happy, successful and high performing teams.