COVID-19 employment and work information

Your questions answered

Last updated: 25 September 2020

We know that many people with arthritis have questions about working during the pandemic.

Here’s our guidance in response to your frequently asked questions to help support you during these uncertain times.

Please note, this content is for information only. It does not constitute legal advice.

While we will make every effort to keep this information up to date, this might not always be possible immediately.

We recommend that you continue to check the latest government advice about COVID-19, workplaces and employment support:

If you have any specific questions or concerns, we'd suggest you speak with your employer to discuss these.

Also, if you need it, you can get legal advice from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), Citizens Advice or Law Centres Network.

Returning to work

I was shielding and now my employer is telling me I have to go back to work. What are my options and what support is available? 

Government guidance is that you should continue to work from home, if you can. But if these changes mean you’re unable to work from home, you can work in a workplace, if it's COVID-safe. For updates where you are, read our dedicated resources for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

If you previously had to shield, you should now be offered the safest on-site role so you can social distance from others.

If you’re required to spend time in close contact with others, your employer should carefully assess whether it involves an acceptable level of risk, whether the activity is essential, and how they can reduce any risk.

If your employer can’t provide a safe working environment and no other options are suitable, you may be put on furlough, which is the government coronavirus job retention scheme.

This is only available, if you've previously been furloughed for at least three consecutive weeks between 1 March and 30 June. You will need to have been employed before 19 March 2020. The furlough scheme is due to end at the end of October 2020.

Check if your employer can use the coronavirus job retention scheme.

From 1 November, the Job Support Scheme will come into effect. The government will contribute towards the wages of employees who are working fewer hours than normal due to decrease demand. It’s due to run for six months.

If you’re feeling anxious, you can also talk to a health professional or get in touch with Employee Assistance Programme Services or Occupational Health Services.

The Access to Work scheme is also providing additional support for people who are anxious about their return to work.

For more information, visit the ACAS website. The section ‘Returning to the workplace after shielding’ is particularly relevant.

Keeping safe at work

What rights do I have under law to protect me in the workplace if I have arthritis? 

Under the Equality Act (2010), you're considered to live with a disability if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.

If this is the case, you have a right for reasonable adjustments to be made to your job.

You’re also protected by law against unfair treatment and dismissal. It could be unlawful discrimination if an employer either:

  • unreasonably tries to pressure someone to go to work
  • unreasonably disciplines someone for not going to work.

The Equality Act covers England, Scotland and Wales. People living in Northern Ireland have similar rights under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

The sort of adjustments that might help you could include:

  • helping you work from home
  • arranging for you to take up a different role
  • changing your working hours so you can avoid peak travel times
  • helping you to avoid public transport by providing a parking space.

What can I ask my employer to do to keep me safe?

If you are in England, there are a range of different steps your employer should follow, depending on the type of business. There are 5 key steps you can expect your employer to follow:

  • Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment
  • Develop cleaning, hand washing and hygiene procedures
  • Help people to work from home
  • Maintain social distancing, where possible
  • Where people cannot be two metres apart, manage transmission risk.

Please see the separate guidance for Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

What can I do if I feel my workplace isn't safe?

If you have concerns about your health and safety at work, for example if social distancing isn’t being followed, talk to a union safety representative if you can. Ultimate responsibility for workplace safety lies with either the Health and Safety Executive or your local authority.

Find out more about workplace safety on the HSE website and read the guidance on the ACAS website about returning to the workplace.

I have symptoms of coronavirus and need to self-isolate. Is there a note I can get for my work?

If you’ve been told to self-isolate because of coronavirus and you need a note for your employer you can use the NHS isolation note service.

This service is only for people who:

  • have symptoms of coronavirus
  • live with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus
  • have been told to self-isolate by a test and trace service.

Your redundancy rights

I've been told I'm being made redundant, what can I do?

Employees have protections against unfair dismissal and may have certain entitlements around redundancy.

Employers must not discriminate against anyone because of their age, sex or disability. Employers also have particular responsibilities towards disabled workers and to new or expectant mothers.

Find out more about the rights you have at work.

ACAS provides free impartial advice to employers, employees and their representatives. Their helpline (0300 123 1100) is open from Monday to Friday, between 8am to 6pm.

Financial support

What financial support is available?

The furlough scheme will be replaced by the Job Support Scheme from 1 November. The following support is also available:

For more information on benefits read COVID-19 benefits advice.

We're here for you

If you’re feeling isolated during these uncertain times, we’re here for you.

  • If you would like to talk to someone, you can call our free helpline on 0800 5200 520 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm)
  • Chat to COVA, our COVID-19 Virtual Assistant, using the purple icon in the bottom right corner of this page.
  • Join our online community
  • Stay in touch and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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