COVID-19: What if my employee refuses to come to work anxious about becoming infected?


The employer has a duty of care towards its employees to protect their health and well-being.

Author: Kiril Moskovchuk
Reading time: 2 minutes

This article is 2 years old.

Read our disclaimer keyboard_arrow_down

This website content is intended as a general guide to law as it applies to the motor trade. Lawgistics has taken every effort to ensure that the contents are as accurate and up to date as at the date of first publication.

The laws and opinions expressed within this website may be varied as the law develops. As such we cannot accept liability for or the consequence of, any change of law, or official guidelines since publication or any misuse of the information provided.

The opinions in this website are based upon the experience of the authors and it must be recognised that only the courts and recognised tribunals can interpret the law with authority.

Examples given within the website are based on the experience of the authors and centre upon issues that commonly give rise to disputes. Each situation in practice will be different and may comprise several points commented upon.

If you have any doubt about the correct legal position you should seek further legal advice from Lawgistics or a suitably qualified solicitor. We cannot accept liability for your failure to take professional advice where it should reasonably be sought by a prudent person.

All characters are fictitious and should not be taken as referring to any person living or dead.

Use of this website shall be considered acceptance of the terms of the disclaimer presented above.

There is no general entitlement not to come to work for someone who is not ill and is not deemed to be incapacitated as above but does not want to come to work for fear of being exposed to the coronavirus.

There is no advice at present to shut down workplaces, even after a contact with a confirmed coronavirus case.

Having said that, the employer has a duty of care towards its employees to protect their health and well-being. This includes following the current advice on protecting the workplace against the coronavirus infection.

The employer, for example, will be expected to make available facilities for the staff to wash hands regularly, to sanitise work surfaces, to insist that members of staff showing the symptoms of coronavirus go into self-isolation as per our previous update. The Government is not currently of the view that face masks should be worn by healthy individuals as protection.

It may be helpful to have a consultation meeting with the employee concerned about catching the infection at work to allay the anxiety and perhaps to offer some adjustments. The Government has announced that working from home should be considered where possible. Flexible working should also be considered. Change of start and finish times may be helpful so that the staff do not have to travel to work at peak times.

A specific situation will arise if someone has a chronic anxiety disorder, which is aggravated by the coronavirus epidemic. The chronic mental health condition is likely to be classed as a disability, and allowing the employee to take some time off or to implement, or at the very least consider and consult with the employee about, any adjustments which may be helpful in reducing the anxiety is the employer’s duty.

If your employee does not have any anxiety-related disability, and refuses to come to work acting unreasonably, this should be dealt with as unauthorised absence and disciplinary matter.

Kiril Moskovchuk

Legal Advisor

Read more by this author

Getting in touch

You can contact us via the form or you can call us on 01480 455500.