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Do staff have a right not to attend work as Covid cases spiral?

Do staff have a right not to attend work as Covid cases spiral?

As Covid-19 cases continue to spiral due to the Omicron variant, many employers may worry if staff feel if they have the right to not attend work because of concerns, perhaps of infecting their family.

The answer for employers can be found with a recent Employment Tribunal judgement, when an employee was dismissed after refusing to attend work for precisely this reason. The judgement clarifies the situation.

The employee brought a claim of unfair dismissal but this was rejected on the following basis:

In rejecting the unfair dismissal claim, the employment tribunal drew a distinction between:

(A) an employee refusing to attend work because they have specific concerns about safety in their workplace that they have communicated to their employer, and

(B) what the tribunal characterised as “general concerns about serious and imminent danger all around” during the pandemic.

The tribunal accepted that the former could potentially lead to an unfair health and safety dismissal, but that the latter could not.

To be clear, the judgement ruled that the pandemic and fears around it did not give employees the automatic right to stay away from work when their employer required their physical attendance.

The Graham Agency, keeping you informed.