Work, Social Distancing and the Prime Minister’s Statement – FAQs

Work and social distancing - FAQs

Update: Monday 30 March

On Monday 23rd March the Prime Minister made a statement about the Government’s restrictions on everyone’s movements during the outbreak of Coronavirus. 

GMB endorses the principles behind social distancing and urges everyone to follow Government advice. Hundreds of thousands of GMB members are engaged in the frontline of the fight against the virus. We owe it to all of them and everyone else working on the frontline to stay at home so we don’t spread the virus even more. 

A number of employers are continuing to keep their workplaces open and GMB is receiving many questions from members about whether or not they should be going to work. 

My employer is refusing to allow me to work from home even though I know it is perfectly possible for this to happen

Your employer is directly ignoring Government advice that everyone who can work from home should do so. Take this up with your employer and enlist the help of your GMB workplace rep if they continue to refuse to allow it. Your employer is placing you and everyone around you at unnecessary risk if you can work at home but are not being permitted to do so. 

You can find the Government advice here - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others#going-to-work

My employer is carrying on with pretty much business as usual. Staff are being called in and we are continuing to work as if nothing has happened

Your employer must ensure that the requirements of social distancing are adhered to as far as they possibly can, and that the work is risk assessed. Every employer must assess the risk of COVID exposure and enact the requirements of government advice. Talk to your GMB workplace rep or Officer if you are being compelled to go to work and your employer is not adequately protecting you. 

I have been contacted by the NHS and told I am at risk due to a pre-existing health condition. Should I go to work?

No – you should be at home for 12 weeks from 22nd March and self shielding to avoid the possibility of contracting the virus. This covers all workplaces.

The definition of “at risk” can be found in the link below. 

Vulnerable workers (defined as anyone who is required to have an annual flu jab on health grounds – see https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-social-distancing-and-for-vulnerable-people/guidance-on-social-distancing-for-everyone-in-the-uk-and-protecting-older-people-and-vulnerable-adults) should have individual risk assessments, in consultation with occupational health professional if they have underlying health conditions. They may need to be redeployed away from working directly with the public, or be provided with personal protective equipment for their job role. 

I am a key worker and live with an at risk person

There should be a risk assessment carried out by your employer that is specific to you and your circumstances and appropriate measures implemented to protect you from becoming infected and/or passing on the virus. GMB believes that those at most of infection living with an at risk person should be provided with free temporary accommodation should they choose to take it. 

My boss is claiming that my work is essential but I don’t agree with that decision

The Government has issued guidance on which workplaces have to close – if your workplace is one of these then it has to close. Your employer is likely to get a visit from the enforcement agencies. 

You can access this Government advice here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close-guidance 

Other workplaces may still operate but it can’t be business as usual.

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