Coronavirus and working from home

Should I be working from home?

The government has advised “stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives”.

Your employer should not expect you to go to work at your normal workplace unless it is absolutely not possible or you are a critical worker.

Your employer should also take into account any government advice on who should be travelling, when they should be travelling and what workplaces should be open at this time.

Employers have a duty of care to workers and should carry out COVID-19 risk assessments at the workplace.

Any potential risks should be addressed appropriately, such as allowing social distancing and providing hand sanitisers and opportunities to frequently wash your hands.

For some people, self-isolating at home is essential under government guidance (such as those who live in a household where another member has displayed symptoms of COVID-19 and those who need to follow shielding measures because they have a very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 due to an underlying health condition).

If this affects you, you must not go to work, but if you are well you can still work from home.

Will I get paid whilst at home?

As long as you are well and working you should get your normal salary.

If you are self-isolating but cannot do your work at home, then, by law you should at least receive statutory sick pay.  Employers may also provide contractual sick pay.

Responsible employers may instead continue to give you your normal salary if feasible, as a way of encouraging workers to do the right thing and follow government guidance on self-isolation.

Is there anything I need to think about when working from home?

Your employer will still be responsible for your health and safety.

They should ensure that you have the correct equipment to do your job, that your workload is at a safe level and you’re not put under unreasonable stress.

The HSE provides guidance for employers on health and safety for home workers.

Ask your employer for advice and what support will be offered if you have a health and safety concern or need a reasonable adjustment if you are disabled.

Make sure your manager has your up-to-date contact details particularly if you are working from the home of someone you are caring for, such as an elderly relative, or are self-isolating at a partner’s home.

Managers should also tell you who to contact if you have any other concerns, such as IT problems or data protection worries.
Make sure you take care you yourself – take regular breaks and switch off at the end of the day.

What if I have unplanned caring responsibilities?

Employees who are unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus can be furloughed.  For example, employees that need to look after children.

Information about furlough can be found here.

Contact your UNISON branch for further advice.

Dependants or emergency leave may also be an option.

Statutory entitlement is unpaid for this leave but many employers will provide paid leave. Many have extended such paid leave arrangements substantially for the duration of the pandemic.  Employers may offer paid parental or carer’s leave.  Check your workplace policies.

Ideally, employers should also follow Acas advice to consider more flexible homeworking arrangements such as working different hours, reducing the number of hours or days worked, reducing work targets, and being flexible about deadlines where possible.
This may help ensure you can continue to work whilst fulfilling caring responsibilities.

Managers should confirm with you whether there is any temporary or permanent change to your contractual obligations, as has been agreed with you.

What if it’s not possible for my work to be done from home and will I still be paid?

Due to the nature of some jobs, it may not be possible to work from home. If it is not possible for your work to be done from home and you can’t go to work, some employers will continue to offer staff full pay.

If your employer is not prepared to pay you in full, they may furlough you under the government’s Job Retention Scheme.  Under this scheme, you will receive your monthly salary up to a maximum of £2500 per employee.

If you are self-employed, you may be able to apply for a grant under the government’s Self-employment Income Support Scheme.

Coronavirus and your mental health

The Mental Health Foundation have produced a guide to protecting your mental health during the coronavirus crisis and MIND has produced a helpful guide which will be useful to anyone who has to practice social isolation.

UNISON’s There for you charity can also provide signposting to emotional support.