Your questions answered
Last updated: 7 January 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:
- England including guidance - if your employee is unable to work as they are clinically extremely vulnerable
- Northern Ireland.
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?
In England, people who are clinically extremely vulnerable who can’t work from home, are now advised not to go to work and can be furloughed or could be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), Employment Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit.
The Gov UK website has information for people in England who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
In Scotland, if you're clinically extremely vulnerable and you can't work from home, the Chief Medical Officer will issue a letter which is similar to a fit note and which will last for as long as your area is under Level 4 restrictions. This letter can be used in the few cases where it is not possible to make your workplace safe. For more information about shielding in Scotland check the Gov Scot website.
In Wales and Northern Ireland, the Chief Medical Officers are writing to clinically extremely vulnerable people to advise them not to attend work outside the home. If you can't work from home, these letters can be presented to employers and can be evidence for claims of statutory sick pay.
For more information on shielding in Wales check 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.
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.
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.
What financial support is available?
The furlough scheme has been extended to the end of April 2021.
It’s now available to people who haven’t already been furloughed, as well as to those who have.
The following support is also available:
- The self-employed income support scheme is available to people who are self-employed or a member of a partnership that has been affected by coronavirus.
- Statutory Sick Pay is available as a safety net if you’re unable to work and the furlough scheme isn’t an option. If you're at high risk and you're shielding, find out more about getting a shielding note.
- You may be able to claim New Style Employment and Support Allowance.
- Homeowners struggling to pay their mortgage because of the coronavirus may be able to take a mortgage holiday or make reduced payments
- Young people aged 16 to 24 years who start a work placement as part of the Department for Education Supported Internships or Traineeships programme may be able to get support from the Access to Work scheme
- For more information on work and finance go to the Gov UK website.
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.