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Plan B: what are your employment rights?

With renewed guidance to work from home if you can set to come into force in England from 13 December, Citizens Advice sets out everything you need to know about your workplace rights.

I think I should be working from home under the new guidance, can my employer tell me I’m not allowed to?

The Plan B Guidance says that ‘office workers’ should work from home if they can. If you can only do your job by accessing equipment that is located at work, or your work requires you to be present in person, then your employer can require you to come into work. 

If your employer says that you can’t work from home but you disagree, start by having an open conversation with them about it. Explain why you would prefer to work from home, and try to demonstrate how it is possible to do so while carrying out all aspects of your job. 

You could ask your employer to change the way you do things without harming the business. For example, if your job involves face-to-face meetings, you could ask to use video conferencing instead. A new arrangement may even be of benefit to the business.

What can I do if I’m worried about safety measures at work?

Your employer has a legal duty under the law, and under your contract, to ensure  your workplace does not pose a risk to your health and safety. 

Current guidance says employers should complete a Covid risk assessment and take steps to prevent transmission, including frequent cleaning and social distancing. This is due to be updated.

If you’re unhappy with safety measures at your workplace, there are legal steps you may be able to take, including making a report to the Health and Safety Executive, but ideally you should try to resolve the issue with your employer first.

What are the rules on mask wearing at work?

Under Plan B, people who work in theatres, cinemas, takeaways without seating for customers, and businesses located in transport hubs will be required to wear a mask unless exempt. This is an extension to mandatory mask wearing which has previously only been required for staff working in shops. 

Mandatory mask wearing does not extend to hospitality venues such as cafes, restaurants. pubs, and nightclubs. Face coverings are also not required in any venue, or part of a venue, that is being used wholly or mainly for eating and drinking. 

Note that from 15 December workers in some businesses such as certain event venues will need to provide proof that they are fully vaccinated or have tested negative in the last 48 hours, unless exempt. 

I’m uncomfortable about taking public transport, what are my options?

If your job means that you can’t work from home, and you are worried about using public transport to get to work, you should talk to your employer about it. 

Your employer’s health and safety duties are limited to things that are under its control. As such there’s no clear legal position about whether it has to take into account the risks you might face when travelling to and from work, as part of its health and safety assessment.

That said, your employer should listen to your concerns if you’re worried about having to use public transport if you can’t work from home. You could reach an arrangement that you’re comfortable with, for example, asking to travel at quieter times of the day.

What happens if I need to self-isolate?

You shouldn’t go into work if you're self-isolating because you have coronavirus symptoms, until you have taken and received a negative PCR test. 

If someone in your household has tested positive for Covid-19 you must self isolate if you are not fully vaccinated or if they have been identified as a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

You must tell your employer that you have to self-isolate. It’s worth telling them in writing so you have a record for later use.  If you’re unable to work from home, you may be entitled to benefits, sick pay or a self-isolation payment of £500 from your local council. See the Citizens Advice website for more information.

Matthew Bradbury, Employment Expert at Citizens Advice, said:

“With the introduction of new restrictions and guidance for workplaces under Plan B, people will understandably have questions about their rights. While you should be working from home if you can, not every employer will agree this is workable.

“If you have any concerns, it’s important to talk with your employer as soon as possible so  you can reach a solution that works for both of you.

“For more information visit the Citizens Advice website, and if you need one-to-one help contact your nearest Citizens Advice. ”