While many key-worker employees have stoically continued to attend their normal workplaces throughout the covid pandemic, many employees have been furloughed or working at home for over a year.  


With the gradual release of lockdown, employers should now be turning their thoughts to the “new normal” and how they are going to manage the “return to the workplace”.  But what are the legal implications?


It is inevitable that as soon as the governments dictate of work from home if you can is lifted employers will be at the receiving end of requests to continue working at home for some or all of the time.  


A request to be based at home is effectively a flexible working request. Employers can agree to such a request on an informal basis, but it is still advisable to clearly document the terms of such arrangement going forward. 


If you are going to deal with the request as a formal flexible working request, you can only decline it for one or more of 8 ‘permitted reasons’.  This could be tricky given the fact that people have been working from home relatively successfully for months.  


Remember too that the employee’s reason for wanting to work at home is not relevant to your considerations – the focus is on the impact on the business.  

Employers may also have to deal with those who continue to be fearful of the covid risk. Much has been talked about of the right for employees to stay away from work (on full pay) if they have a reasonable belief that their health will be endangered by doing so.  


However, as long as the employer has taken all reasonable measures to minimise the risk of covid transmission and has clearly communicated what these measures are to its workforce, it is arguably difficult for an employee to demonstrate that their belief in the danger the workplace poses is reasonable.  


Can you insist on mandatory vaccinations before allowing people to return?  Probably not, except in very limited circumstances.  


However, employers should certainly encourage the employees to take the jab unless they have a good reason not to do so.   It is perhaps more reasonable to insist on regular testing. Employers can access lateral flow tests for use by employees and many do now require twice-weekly testing as a pre-requisite for being permitted into the workplace. This is arguably a reasonable instruction given that the “greater good” is likely to be given precedence over individual inconvenience.  

Thursfields have built our reputation by providing timely and practical advice to our clients.

We will tailor our approach to suit you and take your instructions in whatever way best suits you – by 'phone, video conference or in-person at our Birmingham, Solihull, Worcester, Kidderminster or Halesowen offices. 

We have an excellent team of specialist employment solicitors to advise you, on work-related issues, always seeking the best solution for both employers and employees.

If you would like more information, please contact Helena Morrissey at Thursfields Solicitors on 0345 20 73 72 8 or 

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