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Three ways the pandemic has affected employee rights

Everyone’s been impacted by the events of the past two years in different ways, but one of the biggest widespread changes to daily life is how people are doing their jobs. From the shift to more remote working, to the implementation of the furlough scheme, the profound impact of the pandemic has meant we’ve all had to adjust to a new way of working. 

Regardless of where you work, it is important to be aware of your rights to ensure you’re fairly treated in the workplace. With so much uncertainty around right now, it can also be reassuring to know about any changes to working policies. 

So how have workers’ rights been affected by the pandemic?

We take a look at some of the most relevant policies at this time and explain how they might impact you. 

1. Isolation

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) should be made available to all employees who meet the eligibility criteria. To be eligible, you must have been isolating for at least four consecutive days and earn at least £120 per week before tax. Your employer might ask for an NHS isolation note on top of following the usual sickness reporting process. Employees who aren’t eligible for Covid-related SSP include those who are isolating after entering or returning to the UK, or those who are already receiving Statutory Maternity Pay. 

You might also be entitled to the Test and Trace Support Payment. This is a one-off payment of £500 designed to support workers whilst they are unable to work after having been told to self isolate by the NHS. The grant isn’t available to everyone, so check if you are eligible before applying on your local council’s website. 

2. Health and safety laws

It’s the responsibility of employers to ensure that your workplace is made as safe as possible and that all necessary precautions have been taken to protect employees. The rules and recommended precautions varied between industries during the pandemic, but there were a few common guidelines such as wearing face coverings unless exempt, and surfaces being cleaned more frequently. 

Whilst you have to take some personal responsibility over your wellbeing, it’s also down to your employer to turn a member of staff away from the workplace if they’re showing signs of Covid-19.

If you feel like more could be done to better look after your wellbeing at work, speak to your employer and make any additional suggestions. If they still aren’t receptive to your ideas, consider getting in touch with the Citizens Advice Bureau who will be able to advise you on the next steps. 

3. Flexible working

Before the pandemic, employees had the right to apply for flexible working, provided they had been in their current employment for at least 26 weeks. Remote working became more prominent during the pandemic, particularly for workers who are classed as clinically vulnerable themselves or who are caring for someone else. This meant that they had the right to apply to work at home, even if their colleagues were required to attend the office or other place of work.

When making a request for flexible working, there is some important information you need to include in your application. You have to take into consideration not just how it will work for you, but also how you think it will affect the business as a whole, so think carefully about your application before submitting it. Your employer must give you a verdict within three months, as well as an explanation about the business reasons behind their decision if it’s been refused.

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