What should an employer do if an employee is concerned about the risk of contracting coronavirus and does not want to attend work?
Current government guidance is that employers should encourage their employees to work from home wherever possible. Where this is not possible, as a general rule, an employer can require employees concerned about contracting coronavirus (COVID-19) to attend work.
However, where business needs allow, an employer may wish to take a more flexible approach and allow employees to take periods of annual or unpaid leave. Where the employee has an underlying health condition, is an older worker, or is pregnant, the employer should take additional steps to protect them from the risk of infection.
Where it is not possible for the employee to work from home and they are not in a vulnerable group, the fear of contracting the illness would not generally be sufficient reason for failing to attend work. An employer faced with an employee refusing to come to work will be entitled to take disciplinary action for unauthorised absence. The employer could also stop paying an employee who refuses to attend work on the basis that the employee is failing to perform their part of the contract.