Immunodeficiency UK is grateful to Kidney Care UK for letting us share their information on this topic.
Current government guidance
Work from home guidance has now come to an end in England (although people who are immunocompromised are still advised to work from home if they feel this is right for them). In Northern Ireland and Wales, people are advised to work from home where they can and extra consideration is encouraged for people at higher risk. In Scotland a gradual return to the workplace is encouraged and in Wales working from home is now guidance rather than a legal requirement.
If people at higher risk from COVID-19 cannot work from home, employers should do all they can to reduce their risk of COVID-19 within the workplace setting. Government guidance highlights that people at highest risk may be entitled to a Reasonable Adjustment under the Equality Act.
Guidance for each UK nation explains what employers should do to reduce the spread of respiratory infections, including COVID:
Employers still have a legal requirement to protect their employees from risks, including COVID-19, and to follow updated working safely guidance. Employers must also consult with workers about health and safety such as reducing transmission of COVID-19. All employers must have the following in place:
- Appropriate ventilation and air conditioning
- Appropriate cleaning procedures and cleaning products
- Handwashing facilities
Here are some steps you can work through with your employer:
Step 1: Talk to your employer early – they are likely to want to do what they can to support you
Your employer must carry out a risk assessment to identify the steps they need to take to protect their workers from harm, including risks to people who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, and share this with their employees. You could ask for an individual risk assessment if this has not already been done.
Step 2: Help your employer understand your risk and seek advice from your clinician
Your employer may not be aware of how your condition affects your workplace risk from COVID-19, so information you choose to share could help. You may like to show them information from the Immunodeficiency UK website, for example our COVID-19 information. You might discuss how to manage your risk at work with your doctor (getting it in writing if possible) and share this with your employer. Employers have been asked to consider doctors’ advice.
Step 3: Think about what reasonable adjustments might reduce your risk
The risk assessment process helps your employer consider reasonable adjustments to enable higher risk employees work safely. Think about what adjustments might reduce your risk of COVID-19. Discuss potential changes with your employer and make a request for adjustments in writing (including any advice you have received from your doctor), asking for a written response in a reasonable timeframe, such as 7-14 days.
The Equality Act 2010 requires an employer to make reasonable adjustments so that an employee with a disability has no obstacles to remain in work, for example risk from COVID-19. The specific changes will depend on your workplace and the type of work you do. Reasonable adjustments may include:
- Continuing to work from home
- Changing hours to work avoid peak times on public transport
Check whether the Access to Work fund could fund adjustments required to allow a safe return to work (for example, special equipment or safe travel to and from work).
Step 4: Use all the support available if you are concerned about your safety or have any questions.
Some people might like to raise any questions about workplace safety in discussion groups and forums, to find out what other people with similar conditions have done or to come up with ideas together.
Where employers are not managing the risk of COVID-19, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities (depending on the body responsible for health and safety for your employer) will take action. If you have worries you can contact your workplace union, HSE or your local authority, or the organisations listed below.
Sources of information about workplace rights and how to solve problems:
Immunodeficiency UK’s employment rights leaflet
Acas website (telephone helpline: 0300 123 1100)
Health and Safety Executive
Posted May 2022