Do I have to go to work during the pandemic?
From 20 September 2022, people in England were no longer asked to work from home and employers were able to start planning a safe return to the workplace. It is recommended that employers have a gradual return to the workplace (ie employees working in the office 2 days a week and working from home for the remaining 3 days per week).
Your employers should take the necessary steps to ensure that the workplace follows the safety guidelines. Some steps that they may consider in order to reduce unnecessary contact include:
using screen or barriers to separate staff
grouping employees in fixed teams to reduce the number of people each worker has contact with
increasing the frequency of surface cleaning
From 14 December 2021, anyone who is double-vaccinated and comes into contact with a person with Coronavirus (regardless of variant) should take daily lateral flow tests for 7 days, rather than immediately self-isolating. Anyone who tests positive will need to self-isolate and take a PCR test to verify the results if they have Covid-symptoms. From 11 January 2022, anyone who tests positive on a lateral flow test in England, but is asymptomatic, will not need to take a PCR test to verify the results.
Anyone who is not double-vaccinated and has been in contact with someone who has Coronavirus is required to self-isolate for 10 days.
Anyone who is self-isolating may be entitled to a payment of £500 from their local authority under the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme. The parent or guardian of a child who has been told to self-isolate may also be entitled to this payment.
In England, anyone infected with Coronavirus can stop self-isolating after 5 full days if they test negative twice and don't have a high temperature. This means that you will be able to end quarantine by providing negative lateral flow results on day 5 and day 6 of the self-isolation period. For more information, see the government’s guidance.
If you are double-vaccinated and someone in your household tests positive for Coronavirus, and you do not feel comfortable going into work, speak to your employer about this. You and your employer may be able to come to an agreement. Similarly, where your workplace is open but you don’t wish to go into the office, you should speak to your employer about the possibility of working remotely and make a Flexible working request. Employers should listen to employees who are worried about going to work and should take steps to protect everyone.
If you’re concerned that your employer isn’t taking all practical steps to promote social distancing, you should report to the local authority or the Health and Safety Executive.
Please note that where you refuse to come to work without a valid reason, and do not wish to, or can't, take paid or unpaid leave, then your employer may take disciplinary action against you.
I’m at risk of contracting the virus or living with vulnerable individuals, do I have to go back to work?
Previous advice, that millions of clinically extremely vulnerable people (eg individuals on immunosuppressant drugs) should shield, has ended.
Where you’re considered as a clinically vulnerable individual, you may continue to work from home, but if your job cannot be done remotely, your employer can ask you to return to the workplace. However, employers still have a responsibility to keep you safe, so you should raise any specific concerns you have about going back. Note that if you are disabled, your employer has an extra responsibility to make and pay for ‘reasonable adjustments’.
If you’re living with someone that’s clinically extremely vulnerable, you should notify your employer as they may take that into consideration when asking you to return to work.
What is the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme?
The Test and Trace Support Payment is for people on low incomes who have to self-isolate because they have tested positive for Covid-19 or have been notified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 and they are not exempt from self-isolation. Under the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme, you can receive a one-off payment of £500.
You may be eligible under the scheme if you live in England, have Coronavirus/have to self-isolate because a close contact has Coronavirus and:
have responded to NHS Test and Trace messages, providing any legally required information (eg details of close recent contacts), and
are either employed or self-employed, and
are unable to work from home and will lose income due to self-isolating, and
are currently receiving (or are the partner of someone in the same household receiving) at least one of the following:
Note that if you aren’t receiving one of the benefits above, you may still be eligible for a £500 discretionary payment if you:
meet all other criteria above, and
are on a low income, and
will face financial hardship as a result of self-isolating (speak to your local council about what counts as low income and financial hardship, and whether you are eligible)
You may also be eligible under the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme if you are the parent/guardian of a young person in the same household who is self-isolating and need to take time off work to care for them and:
For more information, see the government’s guidance.