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I am currently working for a company located in UK. As the country has declared a lock down most companies have moved to remote working.

However, I am a software developer in my company and it is not allowing me to move my daily work to home environment. It seems like they are trying to ignore this change for long as possible (until something happens). For my work is not essential to stay at the office as well - same results can be achieved from home even done it before. It's not only me, other IT staff and other potential remote workers are gathering in the office potentially spreading the virus around.

The company directors are not even addressing this. Now with the police being deployed around the country I am afraid now not only of getting the virus but potentially getting a massive fine.

What should I do in this situation? I have brought up the issue with my coworkers to the management multiple times however they just don't budge and are disallowing remote work.

  • What does the actual law say with regards to this. I believe you are permitted to travel to work? – Gregory Currie Mar 26 at 10:28
  • That is the law (I am not to sure if it has been passed yet), however there are a bunch of loopholes because Boris was very broad in his speech, but one thing is clear - if it is not essential to come to work - stay at home. This advice is not being followed by my company, – whiraj Mar 26 at 10:37
  • @TymoteuszPaul I'm not hung up on anything. There was legislation around the lockdowns passed on the night after the speech. I have no idea what the legislation says, but the answer will be in there. – Gregory Currie Mar 26 at 11:01
  • @gnat No the company directors in this case are not following the advise, not my manager. I do not think it is an actual law that is why the companies like mine are trying to bend the rules, advice and benefit in expense of their employees. – whiraj Mar 26 at 11:08
  • Well tomorrow is Friday and on Monday the world might look very different and they might shut down everything anyway. But if you absolutely don't want to risk going to work tomorrow, because maybe you or someone living with you is a person of high risk (COPD etc.). Then you can always call in sick. I mean this might not be the right choice from a legal perspective, but I think it would be very understandable from a moral point of view. And this is Europe after all, where they can't just fire you for a few days of sickness. – seg Mar 26 at 21:43
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According to ACAS, right now on the 26th of March, you have no protection against your employer's arbitrariness when it comes to working from home.

You can talk to your employer, but the usual rules apply and they don't have to agree to anything or do anything in particular to protect your or society. It sounds like you've already done this? You might also want to ask for unpaid leave or holiday as an alternative to working from home.

You can of course unilaterally decide not to attend work. But you can also be disciplined and laid off for that in the usual way. This is a risky prospect to do at the moment IMHO. Things are slowing down and, even if you have marketable skills, I don't think it's an optimal time for a job change. Your call.

But you shouldn't be fined because you're attending work. That's okay currently.

I mean, obviously this is all completely outrageous in a society in semi-lockdown, but that's the current situation. Hopefully things change. Maybe write to your MP? It's worth noting that since things are moving so quickly, if you feel you can hold off acting unilaterally for a few days, things may have changed in your favour.


NB I have seen journalists claiming that your employers decision has to be "reasonable". But that's both vague and also missing from ACAS's advice. So would ignore that kind of language unless something changes.

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So a couple of things to note here but I will start by saying I completely get your anxiety. My partner is in exactly the same position and we are worried especially with me being a vulnerable person (severe asthma).

The government have said that they are already taking into account that not all offices will close and that some people will have to go into work. The strategy is in place to flatten the curve - not to avoid everyone in the country getting it.

If anyone at your company develops symptoms - however mild - they should be allowed to self isolate immediately. If you yourself is a vulnerable person or you live with one, talk to your manager about your special case. Stay at least 2 meters away from everyone in the office and wash your hands regularly (certainly after touching door handles and using any shared facilities).

In regards to you concern about being stopped and fined - you should get your work to issue a signed letter. This is not yet a requirement, but some companies are doing it and I expect it will become a requirement at some point.

If you're still really concerned and think you can do all your work at home - just have a conversation with your manager and request to work from home.

Government Guidelines

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  • What should the signed letter say? Indicate they are travelling to work? – Gregory Currie Mar 26 at 10:35
  • I'm actually not 100% sure on that, but I suspect just something on company headed paper stating your work hours and location. It's actually not a requirement I believe (I.e. if you just tell the police your going to work, if you get stopped, then you should be fine) I just know some companies are issuing these letters – Bee Mar 26 at 10:38
  • @GregoryCurrie don't know about UK, but in Germany there's an official form companies can fill out, declaring that yes, you are travelling to and from your workplace. So far we don't need this form to travel inside Germany, but it already exists. My company has filled it out for each of us, just in case we have to head to the office for whatever reason (we work from home anyway). Some colleagues with "system relevant" spouses told us there are also specific forms for these people. – Jessica Mar 26 at 10:41
  • @Jessica there is no such form in the UK currently - as long as you can explain why you are out of the house you won't get fined – Bee Mar 26 at 10:43
  • But the things is no one knows if they have it for a first week, no symptoms show up(not in all cases of course) What if someone has it without knowing it in my office. It is a difficult situation when the employee is sweeping the issues under the rug. that hopefully will change in following weeks.... – whiraj Mar 26 at 10:52
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Same advice to all those other questions, stay at home and explain to the boss that you can either work from home or they can count those days against your PTO, as per gov instructions you are not commuting to work (feel free to send them a link to latest Boris speech). The worst-case they can try to fire you, but that won't stick through an employment tribunal, more likely is that you are now on PTO or allowed to WFH.

Health and safety come first. Rest can be figured out later.

Small update: I am very aware that we stand away here from telling people on the specific choices to make, but the gravity of this situation I would say more than justifies stepping out of that specific guideline. This is not just OPs health and safety that's at risk here.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Mar 30 at 12:20
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Maybe an email sent early in the morning will help: “Sorry boss, but I was stopped by police this morning. They asked if it was essential for me to go to the office, and I wouldn’t lie to the police, so they sent me home”.

If you’re in an office in London, I would strongly recommend you go by car to pick up your computer, pay congestion charge, whatever, don’t use the tube.

Fines are not massive but the police can stop you.

PS. Nobody gives a damn what your employer “deems essential”. What counts is the facts. If you can do your work from home, it isn’t essential. Sports Direct said “our stores are essential”, government said “no, they are not”, now they are closed.

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    Let's not recommend lying about something as serious as police stop... – Tymoteusz Paul Mar 26 at 10:28
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    "My employer deems it essential I come to work". No lie there. – Gregory Currie Mar 26 at 10:45
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    Tymoteusz, I think you don’t quite understand how serious this situation is. Infecting people is serious. A police stop isn’t. – gnasher729 Mar 26 at 15:33
  • @gnasher729 He almost certainly does understand. If you look at his comments and answer, he is advocating staying at home. The answer is irrelevant at this stage because it is not illegal to travel to work (regardless of how "essential" it is) but this may change in the future. – Gregory Currie Mar 27 at 3:00
  • @gnasher729 Lying about getting a lawful order from a police office can be a crime in itself itself. I fully understand the seriousness of current situation and OP needs to stay at home, but you are recommending OP to lie about police giving them a lawful order (or at least give the impression of that happening). All the boss then has to do is call the police and verify that it's bullshit, and now they can fire OP with cause. – Tymoteusz Paul Mar 27 at 9:12

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