When your employee refuses to return to work

When employees refuse to come back to work

On 1st July 2020, the furlough rules changed to allow people to return flexibly. The idea behind this is that employers can ease people back to work without having to carry the full salary cost. The hope is that this will help organisations to be able to preserve employment whilst they build their revenue back up to something approaching normal. But what do you do when employees refuse to come back to work? 

When employees refuse to come back to work - understanding the concerns.

The first thing to do is to speak to the employee to understand their concerns. Why are they refusing to come back to work? 

1. Childcare issues

When your employee refuses to return to work

As you will probably be aware, not all children have been allowed back to school as yet so one reason for a refusal could be the lack of childcare. 

The Government have recently announced that school attendance will be mandatory from September. Can you hold off having them in the office until then?

2. Shielding

When your employee refuses to return to work

Until 1st August there are still hundreds of thousands of people who have been ordered to shield due to age or underlying health conditions. 

Is your employee refusing to come into work due to them shielding or caring for someone who is? 

3. Concerns over safety

When your employee refuses to return to work

We all have different tolerances to risk. For those who are naturally risk averse, them may have genuine misgivings about mixing with other people.

When employees are refusing to come to work - potential options.

So once you’ve identified what the reason is why your employee is refusing to come to work, what can you do about it?

1. Consider homeworking

When your employee refuses to return to work

The official guidance is still that employees should work from home if they can. Is this still an option? Can the job be performed from home? Are you asking people to come in just because that’s what you did before lockdown?

2. Complete a risk assessment

When your employee refuses to return to work

If you complete a risk assessment which shows what steps you’ve made to make the workplace secure, then this may be enough to quell any fears. If you have trade unions or employee forums, work with them to come up with safe practices.

This should, hopefully, be enough to convince people it’s safe to come back to the workplace, at least on a part time basis.

3. Leave them on furlough

Flexible furloughing

The furlough scheme is still active until October. By this time we should have seen some movement in the economy. So if you can afford to do so, you could leave the employee on furlough until the scheme expires. 

Can I force someone to come back?

If an employee is contractually obliged to attend a place of work then technically yes you can. However, these are exceptional times and we would recommend that you err on the side of caution, at least for now. Cases of unfair dismissal have not gone to tribunal yet so we don’t know exactly how the courts will view this. However, if the risk is felt to be genuine, they could come down on the side of the employee. 

Need help planning your return to work?

Nicci Birley, Rob Birley. Cornerstone Resources

We’ve helped a number of businesses restart after lockdown. If you need advice and guidance, call Nicci on 07908 875146 or Rob on 07494 161169. Click here for our full range of services.

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