Coronavirus: Can my boss make me return to work? And other questions

by nyljaouadi1
0 comment

Image copyright
Getty Images

There have now been more than 2.5 million coronavirus cases around the globe, and nearly 179,000 deaths – more than 17,000 of them in the UK.

Readers have been getting in touch to ask questions about the outbreak.

My company wants me to return to work on 1 May but this is still within the lockdown period. Is this legal? – Jim Bridgeman, Kettering

At the beginning of the lockdown (23 March), the government said that everyone should work from home if they could, and only go into a workplace if their job “absolutely cannot be done from home”.

Your employer has a duty to protect your health and safety. If you or a member of your household have an underlying health condition which increases vulnerability to coronavirus, you could argue that you have a right not to come into work.

The arbitration service Acas says employers should “listen to any concerns staff may have and should take steps to protect everyone”.

If you still do not want to go in, you could ask to take time off as holiday or unexpected leave, but your employer does not have to agree to this.

An employer could bring disciplinary action against an employee who they consider to be refusing to work without a good reason,

However, the business support service Croner advises them to act cautiously. It says: “Forcing an employee to come into work against their will, in these unprecedented circumstances, is likely to get messy fast, so try to be as considerate and flexible as possible.”

What do I need to know about the coronavirus?

Do we not have reusable PPE and can’t it just be washed or left for three days for any present virus to die? – Chris Stone, Lancashire

Personal protective equipment (PPE) protects health care workers from coming into contact with blood or body fluids that may contain some infectious agents (germs).

All PPE worn during the highest-risk situations – such as aprons, gloves and surgical masks – should usually be disposed of after a single use or session.

However, guidelines now say NHS staff can reuse some kit where it is safe to do so, even if it is labelled as single-use by the manufacturer.

The Health and Safety Executive says it recognises “some compromise” is needed when there are extreme shortages of kit, and that these “exceptional circumstances” do not reflect its standard approach.

For example, some gowns could be washed by the hospital laundry and reused, it says.

The British Medical Association, which represents doctors in the UK, is not happy with this situation. Dr Rob Harwood, chairman of its consultants committee, said “it absolutely cannot compromise the protection of healthcare workers”.

The Royal College of Nursing says its members can refuse to treat patients as a “last resort” if adequate PPE has not been provided.

More questions and answers

All about coronavirus

Your questions

Skip All about coronavirus

  • What is the coronavirus? from Caitlin in Leeds Most asked

    Coronavirus is an infectious disease discovered in China in December 2019. Its more precise name is Covid-19.

    There are actually hundreds of coronaviruses – most of which circulate amongst animals, including pigs, camels, bats and cats. But there are a few – such as Covid-19 – that infect humans.

    Some coronaviruses cause mild to moderate illnesses, such as the common cold. Covid-19 is among those that can lead to more serious illnesses such as pneumonia.

    Most infected people will have only mild symptoms – perhaps a fever, aching limbs and a cough – and will recover without special treatment.

    Coronavirus key symptoms: High temperature, cough, breathing difficulties.

    But some older people, and those with underlying medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes, or cancer are at greater risk of becoming seriously unwell.

    The NHS has more about symptoms.

  • Once you’ve had coronavirus will you then be immune? from Denise Mitchell in Bicester Most asked

    When people recover from an infection, their body is left with some memory of how to fight it should they encounter it again. This immunity is not always long-lasting or totally efficient, however, and can decrease over time.

    It is unclear, though, if people who have recovered from coronavirus will be able to get it again.

    Oxford University’s Prof Sarah Gilbert, who is working on creating a vaccine for Covid-19, says that it “probably is likely” that an infected person will be able to be reinfected in the future.

    The UK government views antibody tests – which can show if a person has had Covid-19 – as central to its plans to end the current lockdown and allow people to return to work.

    But the World Health Organization has said that there is no evidence that antibody tests can show that a person has immunity or is protected against reinfection.

  • What is the incubation period for the coronavirus? from Gillian Gibs

    Scientists have said that the “incubation period” – the time between catching the virus and starting to show symptoms – is five days on average. However, some people can have symptoms earlier or much later than this.

    The NHS is dealing with a large number of people who are seriously ill from Covid-19.

    The World Health Organization advises that the incubation period can last up to 14 days. But some researchers say it may be up to 24 days.

    Knowing and understanding the incubation period is very important. It allows doctors and health authorities to introduce more effective ways to control the spread of the virus.

  • Is coronavirus more infectious than flu? from Merry Fitzpatrick in Sydney

    Both viruses are highly contagious.

    On average, it’s thought people with the coronavirus infect two to three other people, while those with flu pass it on to about one other person.

    There are simple steps you can take to stop the spread of flu and coronavirus.

    • Wash your hands often with soap and water
    • Avoid touching your face unless your hands are clean
    • Catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue and then put it in the bin
  • How long are you ill for? from Nita in Maidstone

    For four out of five people Covid-19 will be a mild disease, a bit like flu.

    Symptoms include a fever and dry cough. You may feel unwell for a few days but you should be back to normal within a week or so after the symptoms appear.

    If the virus gets well established in the lungs it can cause breathing difficulties and pneumonia. About one in seven people may need hospital treatment.

End of All about coronavirus

My health conditions

Your questions

Skip My health conditions

  • How dangerous is coronavirus for people with asthma? from Lesley-Anne in Falkirk

    Asthma UK’s advice is to keep taking your daily preventer inhaler (usually brown) as prescribed. This will help cut the risk of an asthma attack being triggered by any respiratory virus, including coronavirus.

    Carry your blue reliever inhaler with you every day, in case you feel your asthma symptoms flaring up. If your asthma is getting worse and there is a risk you might have coronavirus, contact the online NHS 111 coronavirus service.

  • Are otherwise healthy disabled people more at risk from coronavirus? from Abigail Ireland in Stockport

    Coronavirus can be more severe in older people and those with pre-existing conditions such as heart and lung illnesses, or diabetes.

    There is no evidence that disabled people who are otherwise healthy – and who don’t, for instance, have respiratory problems – are at greater risk from coronavirus.

  • Will people who’ve have had pneumonia experience milder coronavirus symptoms? from Marje in Montreal

    Covid-19 can, in a small number of cases, lead to pneumonia, most notably in people with pre-existing lung conditions.

    But as this is a new virus, no-one will have any immunity to it, whether they have previously had pneumonia, or any other form of coronavirus such as Sars.

    Coronavirus can cause viral pneumonia which requires treatment in hospital.

End of My health conditions

Protecting myself and others

Your questions

Skip Protecting myself and others

  • Why are governments going to such extreme measures to combat coronavirus when flu appears to be more deadly? from Lorraine Smith in Harlow

    Quarantining cities and telling people to stay at home may seem extreme, but the alternative is to let the virus spread unrestrained.

    Police officers enforcing the quarantine instructions.

    There is no vaccine for this new virus, as there is for flu, which makes elderly people and those with underlying health conditions very vulnerable to its effects.

    In China, lockdown measures appear to be working as new daily cases of the virus have now started to decline.

  • Should I wear a mask to protect myself and others from the virus? from Ann Hardman in Radcliffe, Manchester

    Current UK government advice is that most people do not need to to wear masks. However, Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK’s chief scientific adviser, has said a review of the use of face masks is ongoing.

    The World Health Organization says the only people who should wear protective masks are those who are sick and showing symptoms, or caring for people suspected to have the coronavirus.

    And Public Health England has said there is very little evidence of widespread benefit from their use outside of clinical settings, such as hospitals, surgeries and care homes.

    Experts say good hygiene – such as regularly washing your hands and certainly before putting them near your mouth – is vastly more effective.

  • What should I do if someone I live with is self-isolating? from Graham Wright in London

    If you’re living with someone who’s self-isolating, you should keep all contact to a minimum and, if possible, not be in the same room together.

    The person self-isolating should stay in a well-ventilated room with a window that can be opened, and keep away from other people in the house.

    If you live with someone who has symptoms, you’ll also need to self-isolate for 14 days from the day their symptoms started – this is how long it can take for symptoms to appear.

    If you get symptoms, self-isolate for seven days from when your symptoms start, even if it means you’re self-isolating for longer than 14 days. If you do not get symptoms, you can stop self-isolating after 14 days.

  • I am currently self-isolating. Can I attend a hospital appointment? from Patricia Welsh in Aylmerton, Norfolk

    The current government advice is to access medical assistance remotely, wherever possible.

    However, those with a scheduled hospital or other medical appointment during this period, should talk to their GP or clinician.

    This is to ensure that they continue to receive the care they need and consider whether appointments can be postponed.

End of Protecting myself and others

Me and my family

Your questions

Skip Me and my family

  • I am five months pregnant and want to understand the risk to the baby if I get infected? from a BBC website reader

    Pregnant women are being advised by the UK government to stay at home and keep contact with others to a minimum. However, they should attend antenatal clinics as normal.

    There is no evidence to suggest that pregnant women are more likely to get coronavirus. But, for a small number of women, being pregnant may change the way their body deals with a severe viral infection.

    The government’s chief medical adviser says this is a precautionary measure until scientists find out more about the virus and that “infections and pregnancy are not a good combination in general”.

  • I am breastfeeding my five-month-old baby – what should I do if I get coronavirus? from Maeve McGoldrick

    Mothers pass on protection from infection to their babies through their breast milk.

    If your body is producing antibodies to fight the infection, these would be passed on through breastfeeding.

    Breastfeeding mums should follow the same advice as anyone else over reducing risk – cover your mouth when you sneeze and cough, throw away used tissues straight away and wash hands frequently, while trying to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.

  • Is it possible to catch coronavirus from a pet dog or cat? from Javed

    This is highly unlikely to happen, according to scientists and vets.

    While there are rare cases where an animal has caught the virus from a human, there is no evidence that humans can catch the virus from animals.

    It is possible that a pet’s fur could become contaminated if an infected person has previously touched or stroked the animal.

    But even without the threat of coronavirus, you should always wash your hands with soap and water after handling an animal or its lead, and avoid touching your nose and mouth.

  • What is the risk to children? from Louise in London

    In general, children appear to be relatively unaffected by coronavirus, according to data from China and other countries.

    This may be because they are able to shake off the infection or have no symptoms or only very mild ones similar to a cold.

    However, children with underlying lung problems, such as asthma, may have to be more careful.

    All schools in the UK are currently closed, except for vulnerable pupils or children of key workers.

End of Me and my family

My finances

Your questions

Skip My finances

  • When will restrictions on house purchases be lifted? from Christian Jackson in South London

    There are currently no formal restrictions on moving house, although the government has strongly advised against it where possible. It says that while there is no need to pull out of transactions, buyers and renters should delay moving so they can observe social distancing and self-isolating guidelines.

    If the house you are moving into is empty, it’s fine to carry on as long as these rules are observed during the removals process. If the property is occupied, the government is encouraging the buyer and seller to find an alternative moving date further down the line.

  • Will lenders allow people with mortgages to delay payments during the outbreak? from Clare Waters

    People affected by coronavirus will be able to delay their mortgage payments for up to three months.

    It is important to bear in mind that any interest and capital repayments which are missed, will be added to the mortgage balance.

    This means that any future monthly mortgage bills are likely to be slightly higher.

  • What if you’re not on a salary and can’t work from home if your workplace closes? from Joseph in Glasgow

    If you are employed, your employer has an obligation to pay your Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for up to 28 weeks.

    Normally, you would be eligible after four days of being ill. However, the government has responded to the spread of coronavirus by saying that companies will temporarily pay SSP from the first day off.

    In the case of small and medium-sized employers, the government will fund sick pay for the first 14 days.

    Eligible employees are entitled to £95.85 a week.

  • How do you get gas and electricity if you are on a pre-payment meter and can’t get to a post office to top it up? from David E P Dennis

    Energy companies have promised to help you if you have a pre-payment meter. So you may be able to authorise a friend to top up your energy card for you.

    You could also ask your supplier to send you a card by post which is already topped up. The government says that if it’s urgent the supplier should be able to add credit directly to your account. You should be able to top up online as well.

    And you will have to pay back any credit your supplier gives you. So you should contact them to ask about when and how to do this.

  • I’m self-employed. Can I claim benefits if I can’t work due to the virus? from Mark Gribby in Nottingham

    Self-employed people who have symptoms or have been told to self-isolate may apply for two benefits – universal credit or employment and support allowance.

    Normally, you would be eligible after four days of being ill. However, the government has responded to the spread of coronavirus by saying that companies will temporarily pay SSP from the first day off.

    But charities are worried that there is still a five-week delay before universal credit is paid.

End of My finances

What questions do you have about coronavirus? Do you want to ask it on BBC News? Get in touch and we may ask you to send us a video of you asking your question.

In some cases, your question will be published, displaying your name, age and location as you provide it, unless you state otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. Please ensure you have read our terms & conditions and privacy policy.

Use this form to ask your question:

If you are reading this page and can’t see the form you will need to visit the mobile version of the BBC website to submit your question or send them via email to

Source link

Related Posts

Leave a Comment