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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 67910
Experience:  Qualified Solicitor
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I am one of four ladies working in a small office. We are

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I am one of four ladies working in a small office. We are all in our late sixties, early seventies. We also have a blind man, about forty years working with us. Could you give some advice regarding whether working in the same small office is safe now we have the threat of covid 19. The blind chap cannot socially distance and because of his disability walks into us and our desks. He travels to work in a public taxi, which again worries us. Can you advise us of our legal rights.
JA: Have you discussed this with a manager or HR? Or with a lawyer?
Customer: We have but they seem to think we are making a fuss about nothing
JA: What is your employment status? Are you an employee, freelancer, consultant or contractor? Do you belong to a union?
Customer: Employee. No union
JA: Anything else you want the Lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: Our employers have changed our hours to work around his hours but we don't see why three of us should change to work around him. They have refused to give us a safe environment of our own.

Hello, I’m Ben, a UK lawyer and will be dealing with your case today. I may also need to ask some questions to determine the legal position.

How long have you worked there for? Please note this is not always an instant service and I may not be able to reply immediately. However, rest assured that I am dealing with your question and will get back to you today. Thanks

Customer: replied 5 days ago.
Your reply isn't very clear. Blurred print.
We have all been employed there for about twelve years

Except for the blind man, can the rest of you socially distance?

Customer: replied 5 days ago.

Can separate arrangements be made for that man, such as his own private working space?

Customer: replied 5 days ago.
We asked the same question and even asked for another office for us. Their response has been negative finding us other areas which involves us hot desking, again dodgy in this climate. We feel they are punishing us for as they say, being awkward.

Ok thanks. As far as social distancing is concerned, that is not mandatory, but only required wherever possible. There are plenty of jobs where that isn’t possible and other methods of mitigation are adopted, such as facial coverings, screens, better hand-washing hygiene, etc.

When it comes to safety in the workplace in relation to Covid-19, the legal position has not changed, in a sense that employers have certain duties, both under common law and statute, in relation to the health and safety of their employees. These duties can be summarised as follows:

· Under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 an employer has a general duty "to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all its employees.”

· Provide information, instruction, training and supervision to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of employees at work

· Ensure that places of work under the employer's control are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe for work and without risks to health

· Provide and maintain a safe working environment with adequate facilities and arrangements for welfare at work. including necessary PPE relevant to the risks

If the employer has introduced adequate measures considering the specific nature of the work and the risks involved, an employee can only remain off work if they are still shielding or self -isolating, which would only be covered by sick pay.

However, if the employer’s measures are unreasonable and wholly inadequate, or they have not taken any measures at all to protect their employees’ health and safety, there is one option the affected employees can take. This comes under sections 44 and 100 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 which provide protection where employees refuse to come into work because they genuinely believe they are going to be exposed to a serious and imminent danger. If an employee relies on this protection, their employer should not penalise them in any way and if they do, the employee could potentially challenge them further in the Employment Tribunal.

See here for more details on this:

https://www.pureemploymentlaw.co.uk/coronavirus-workers-health-and-safety-concerns/

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