Dealers worrying that some furloughed employees may be able to stay away from work after the lockdown starts to ease because they’re worried about the risk of infection have the law on their side, it has been confirmed.
Car Dealer Magazine was contacted by one showroom owner to say that his dealership was ready to reopen, first with aftersales and then with sales when given the go-ahead.
However, many of his staff were saying they couldn’t come back, claiming it wasn’t safe out.
The dealer, who asked not to be named, said this was putting the business at risk and he feared that if the furloughed employee didn’t have an anxiety-related disability, but refused to come into work, it would be difficult to put up any sort of argument.
He wanted to know where he stood when they simply said that they didn’t want to put their family at risk, as opposed to someone who was actually self-isolating.
Lawgistics employment law specialist Kiril Moskovchuk told Car Dealer: ‘In this scenario, it will be a case of an unauthorised absence and a disciplinary matter.
‘It will also be a breach of the duty – implied or express – to obey a lawful and reasonable instruction to return to work.
‘An employee cannot simply decide that coming to work is too dangerous. This is not what the government says – quite the opposite.
‘There must be a specific reason which would rightly prevent an employee from coming to work, and mere anxiety is not one of them.’
The legal experts say that in a lot of cases, people with ongoing health issues won’t be more vulnerable to Covid-19 so have no reason to refuse to return to work, so long as the employer follows the government’s published guidance on workplace procedures.
But Lawgistics warns that if the guidance isn’t followed, it could become a health and safety matter and might give the employee a valid excuse to refuse to work in the most serious cases.
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