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Back to the office: your rights if you’ve been working from home

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14/07/2021
Workers will start returning to offices from next week as nearly all remaining lockdown restrictions are lifted in England.

Earlier this week, the Prime Minster confirmed so-called Freedom Day would go ahead on 19 July after 16 months of constraints.

During a press briefing, Boris Johnson said: “We’re removing the Government instruction to work from home where you can but we don’t expect that the whole country will return to their desks as one from Monday.”

Over the coming weeks and months, many people will be heading into work for the first time in over a year.

Here’s a summary of your rights if you’ve been working from home.

Can my employer ask me to return to my normal workplace?

The short answer is yes. Your employer can ask you to return to your normal workplace if your original contract said you would be office-based or based elsewhere.

If you really want to continue working from home, it’s worth having a conversation with your boss. Just remember they don’t have to agree. You could consider making a flexible working request, which is a legal right. Include all the reasons why working from home could benefit you and the business.

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

Your employer has a legal duty to ensure that 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.

If you are unhappy with safety measures at your workplace, you could report your employer to the Health and Safety Executive, but ideally you and your employer can solve the issues together.

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

There is no clear legal position about whether your employer has to take into account the risks you 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. Talk to your boss and try to 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 or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.

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.

Remember that the rules on self-isolating are changing. From 16 August, if you’ve had your second vaccination, you won’t need to self-isolate if you have been in contact with someone who’s tested positive for coronavirus. If you have symptoms you’ll need to self-isolate until you get tested.

Matthew Bradbury, employment expert at Citizens Advice, said: “With restrictions ending and workplaces reopening, people will understandably have questions about their rights. While you can ask to continue working from home, your employer doesn’t have to agree.

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

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