Last reviewed 13 November 2020

The Government has published a briefing paper outlining the current key issues, as at 10 November 2020, on returning to work during the coronavirus pandemic.

The briefing paper notes that, as at the time of publication, there are now a number of circumstances in which a person may be required or advised not to go to work. This includes those who:

  • are able to work from home

  • are required to self-isolate

  • are required to quarantine (self-isolating after travel)

  • are extremely vulnerable to Covid-19 (shielding)

  • attend workplaces which are required to close.

It also notes that those who are not able to go to work may be able to continue working from home.

These rules vary across the four nations of the UK: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The paper provides some interesting comparisons of the more subtle points of law across the four nations noting, “In England, for example, during the temporary lockdown it is an offence for a person to go to work if they are able to work from home or if they are required to self-isolate. There is also guidance advising extremely vulnerable people to shield and not go to work.

“By contrast, in Scotland people are only advised not to go to work if they can work from home. There is no legal obligation to self-isolate and no general guidance on shielding.”

The briefing also covers specific areas such as

  • the health and safety legal framework

  • financial support for workers, furlough and statutory sick pay

  • refusing to go to work

  • whistleblowing.

Briefing notes are generally published to inform government decision makers such as MPs on current issues. However, they contain clear and concise information on key issues (such as returning to work in this case) and therefore will be useful to managers and employers.

The briefing note can be accessed via the House of Common Library.