With some businesses gearing up for a return to work many people will have concerns about health & safety. What are the key issues for employers to be aware of?

Managing the return to work

Which employees in which sectors may return to work and why? Will Boris’s comments impact how staff feel about being at home on furlough leave on 80% pay? When can an employee refuse to return to work? Who should continue to work from home? And when should an employer consider disciplining an employee who has a valid H&S concern relating to Coronavirus? These are just a few of the questions employers are now asking.


Health & safety protection of employees is already enshrined in law. Employees who carry out certain H&S related actions or activities are protected not just from being dismissed unfairly but also protected from being subjected to a detriment. Employers need to steer clear of taking inappropriate action against those raising genuine H&S concerns and make sure staff know how the employer would like any such concerns to be raised. Employers will, in due course, want to be aware of any guidance issued by Government or HSE for their sector. It may also be useful for employers to consider circulating guidance to employees to help them understand what steps have been taken to mitigate H&S risks of Coronavirus at work.

Protected categories of staff include:

  • Those people designated to  carry out activities aimed at reducing H&S risk,
  • Being a H&S representative,
  • Bringing to the employer’s attention by reasonable means circumstances  connected with his work which are believed to be harmful  or potentially harmful to H&S,
  • Where the employee reasonably believes there to be circumstances of imminent danger, which they cannot reasonably be expected to aver, leaving work or refusing to return to work or taking reasonable steps to protect themselves or others from danger.


Whistleblowing protections have also been in place for some time. Raising a H&S concern or even a concern about how personal data relating to the health of a worker has been processed,  may also be a disclosure protected by whistleblowing legislation. As such both workers and employees may have legal recourse depending on the circumstances.


Returning workers may ask for different working arrangements, for example, to take into account the fact they live with or care for a person who is shielding or with someone who is pregnant or who has child care responsibilities. Discrimination claims are a risk unless the employer has a clear and consistent policy in place for dealing with changes to working patterns.

The pitfalls

Employers will need to tread carefully when considering whether or not it is appropriate to start disciplinary procedures against employees who decide not to turn up to work, deduct pay or even take the step of dismissing an employee.

For more information about any of the issues in this article, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Glenn.jaques@luptonfawcett.law or telephone 0114 228 3282 or any member of our multi-award winning team.

If you are worried your business has made mistakes in the uptake and administration of the coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS) or are facing the prospect of a Furlough Fraud investigation by HMRC, our team of specialist Furlough Fraud Solicitors can offer you tailored legal advice and specialist representation.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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