Can my boss force me to work if I work for a non-essential business?

The Prime Minister on Monday announced a three-week lockdown, and said the public would no longer be allowed to leave their homes except for a few specific exceptions. He said that the police would now have powers to fine people, and fines ranging from £30 to £1,000 would be issued to people breaking the rules.

Boris Johnson said: “From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home.

“Because the critical thing we must do is stop the disease spreading between households.

“That is why people will only be allowed to leave their home for the following very limited purposes.”

These are: “Shopping for basic necessities as infrequently as possible, one form of exercise a day, any medical need or to provide care to a vulnerable person, or travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home.”


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Can my boss force me to work if I work for a non-essential business?

Employment Law Solicitor at Aaron & Partners, Michael Redston, told “Broadly, yes.

“As above, there is no reason that non-essential businesses cannot operate, as long as they are not of a type specifically ordered to close by the Government (pubs, restaurants etc.).

“If your employer is asking you to work, then as an employee you are obliged to comply unless there is a specific risk to your health and safety. If you have concerns, raise them with HR or your manager.”

If your manager says you must go into work, unfortunately, there is not much you can do.


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Mr Redston said: “Your boss has the right to insist you attend work if the business is continuing to operate, unless it is one of the types of business specifically ordered by the government to close.

“If you refuse to do so, you would potentially be in breach of your contact of employment. This can lead to disciplinary action being taken, which can include potential dismissal for misconduct.

“However, there are procedures that should be followed before an employer dismisses shoe for failing to attend work and employers should be cautious about threatening immediate dismissal without following these procedures.

“If an employee has two years’ service with the company, they are eligible to make a claim in the Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal, which may include if a fair procedure was not conducted by the employer.”

Can I get paid to self-isolate if I am a non-essential worker?

Whether you will continue to be paid – up to 80 percent of your wages under the new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – depends entirely on your employer.

If your employer has decided to take part in the scheme, then you will likely continue getting paid.

Partner and head of commercial employment law at Forbes Solicitors, Emma Swan said: “Changes announced by the Chancellor in the UK budget mean businesses with less than 250 employees will be able to claim back the cost of providing SSP to staff affected by coronavirus from the Government.

“This covers pay for up to 14 days, which spans the self isolation period.

“However, this doesn’t necessarily mean companies will automatically need to start paying sick pay to people self-isolating because of coronavirus.

“Self-isolation does not necessarily constitute sickness or sick leave.”

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