It’s a time of great conflict for business owners trying to balance the wellbeing of their staff with the needs of the business.
The health and safety of your workforce is vital, but at the same time, some sense of stability and consistency is also required to maintain your business’s performance.

Understanding how to manage the health and economic risks involved while ensuring your workers’ rights are upheld will help give you a greater sense of control.

Here are my clients’ main areas of concern:

Can I lawfully conduct temperature checks on employees before they enter the building?

Usually, such an option would be difficult to enforce without an employee’s consent and could, in rare cases, even result in claims of constructive dismissal or assault. However, if the nature of the business means it cannot risk the pandemic spreading across the workforce and would need to close in this situation unless it undertook health checks, consent may not be an issue.

Taking such measures may actually be well-received by a workforce and help to reassure them that the organisation is protecting their health and safety. Be sure to involve your staff in your decision-making so they understand you have their best interests at heart.

Could dismissing an employee who refuses to travel to work due to their disability be discrimination?

Yes, such an action could place them at risk. You should also bear in mind Government guidance on self-isolating for those who are most at risk from the coronavirus.

Who is considered to be most at risk from the coronavirus?

Government guidance identifies the following individuals as being most at risk:

  • People aged over 70
  • Women who are pregnant
  • People aged under 70 with an underlying health condition.

These conditions include:

  • chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases
  • chronic heart disease
  • chronic kidney disease
  • chronic liver disease
  • chronic neurological conditions
  • diabetes
  • spleen issues, for example, sickle cell disease or where an individual has had their spleen removed
  • a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
  • being seriously overweight (a body mass index of 40 or above).

Can an employee refuse to come to work due to fear of infection?
As an employer, you owe your staff a duty of care. If an employee has a valid reason to feel they are unsafe at work, they may be within their rights not to attend. This could be for reasons such as an inability to socially distance in the workplace, inadequate hygiene facilities or lack of protective screens, for example.

However, if all appropriate measures are in place and safety assessments have been carried out, it is reasonable to consider an absent member of staff as being on unauthorised leave. Before you reach this point, it’s always advisable to talk to your employee so that you can fully understand and hopefully alleviate their concerns.

If you’d like support with managing these issues in your business, please don’t hesitate to contact me on: