COVID-19 employment and work information

Your questions answered

Last updated: 1 April 2021

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'm clinically extremely vulnerable and my employer is telling me to come into work. What are my options and what support is available? 

Everyone in the UK is still advised to work from home where possible.

In England, if you’ve been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) you’re now advised to go to work if you can’t work from home. Your employer has to take steps to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace and should be able to explain the measures they’ve put in place to keep you safe. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, known as furlough, and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) are running until 30 September. However, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) are no longer available on the basis of people being advised to shield.

In Scotland, as the country moves from ‘Stay at Home’ to ‘Stay Local’ guidance, the advice is to continue to work from home if you can. Employers still have a duty, if they reasonably can, to support people to work from home. Further guidance is due to be provided by the Scottish Government soon. For more information visit the Gov Scot website.

In Northern Ireland, until Sunday 11 April the advice for people who are CEV is not to go into a workplace. If you are CEV and you can’t work from home, you should have a letter from the Chief Medical Officer that you can present to employers as evidence for claims of statutory sick pay. On Monday 12 April the country will begin to ease out of lockdown. The first step will be easing of the advice around going to the workplace. For more information, visit the NI direct website.

In Wales, if you’ve been classed as CEV you’re advised to go to work if you can, as long as the workplace is COVID-19-secure, and your employer has taken reasonable measures to minimise risk. For more information, visit the Gov Wales website.

Check on the Citizen Advice website what benefits you can get. You can select England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to find out the details for where you live.

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.

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, the Government has issued advice for how people can ensure their workplaces are COVID-secure. This is broken down by work-type sectors.

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 has been extended to the end of September 2021.

The following support is also available:

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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