Government has told the Nation to only go to work “where this absolutely cannot be done from home” or if you have been designated as a key worker.
I can do my job remotely
With today’s technology, most jobs can be done remotely, meaning those jobs which cannot, must be in the minority. If you can do your work remotely, you must now stay at home and your employer must provide you with the tools to do so, unless it decides to lay you off. Importantly, your employer cannot force you to go to work if you can now work remotely and cannot discipline you, nor terminate your employment, if you refuse to attend the office.
I can’t do my job remotely
In these circumstances your employer could either lay you off (i.e. tell you to stay home without pay) if the decision is taken to close the office, or require that you attend the office to work. The exception to this would be if you have chosen to self-isolate due to either having the Coronavirus, showing signs of having the virus, or if you have been in close proximity to someone showing signs of having it. In these circumstances, your employer cannot terminate your employment, but could lay you off.
Notwithstanding the above, employers do always need to consider the health and safety of their staff at the workplace. Whatever way you look at this, if staff attend the workplace at present they are putting themselves at greater risk of contracting the virus. In these circumstances, it is questionable whether employers (save in respect of key workers) are flouting their obligations under health and safety laws. Could this be a big area for claims in the future?