Returning to the workplace?

As restrictions are lifted and guidance on working from home will end, we consider what rights people with lymphoma have, the latest government guidance for England and include some questions you might ask your employer as you consider returning to work. 

Working in hospitality

On 19 July the government in England will lift the remaining COVID restrictions in England. 

  • Face coverings are no longer legally required*
  • The 2 metre (or 1 metre plus) social distancing rule has ended
  • All legal restrictions on numbers meeting indoors and outdoors have been removed
  • The guidance requiring people to work from home where possible has been removed.

*Although face coverings are no longer legally required, people are encouraged to wear them in enclosed and crowded places (such as shops or on public transplant) or where they come into contact with people they don’t usually meet. 

Wales are due to review restrictions on 15 July, Scotland are due to lift most legal restrictions on 9 August and Northern Ireland are due to ease some COVID measures on 26 July. 

We believe all employers should focus on safeguarding the health and wellbeing of their employees, particularly those who are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they catch COVID-19 and while there is still uncertainty on the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines. 

Your rights

As a person affected by cancer you are still protected by the Equality Act. This says that your employer should make ‘reasonable adjustments’ that allow you to continue working. Under the Equality Act 2010, this applies for the rest of your life, not just while you are having treatment or for a limited time after finishing. The issue becomes of course what is and what is not reasonable and depends on each individual set of circumstances.

Government guidance for England from 19 July

The updated government guidance on protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19 from 19 July outlines employers legal responsibility, support to work at home, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), both of which are available until 30 September. It also includes information if you are sick or incapable of work, whether due to coronavirus or other health reasons. 

Speaking to your employer

If you want or need to return to work and are concerned about the safety of your workplace, speak to your employer to find out what precautions they are taking to reduce your risk. Depending on the size of your organisation you could speak with occupational health, human resources or your line-manager about returning to work. You may, for example, be required to provide your employer with a fit note or medical opinion on returning to the workplace before any changes are agreed. 

Questions you might ask your line manager, occupational health or HR 

Workplaces and different sectors of business will vary and some will be more adaptable than others. Here we include some questions you may find helpful when talking to your employer. In addition, you may find it helpful to talk to your GP or clinical team about the impact of returning to work.

  • Will the company/organisation allow me to work/continue to work from home? Will this be possible for some or all of the working week?
  • Will adjustments be made to make it possible for me to work from home/continue to work from home? 
  • What are the provisions for flexible working hours? If I come into work, can I flex my hours to start later/leave earlier?
  • What provisions are being made to make the workplace a safe environment? (For example, glass barriers, wearing face coverings (remember face coverings protects those around you rather than provide protection for the wearer).
  • What should I do if my colleagues refuse to wear a mask when near me/harass me for wearing a mask/do not keep a social distance?
  • What should I do if the lift is crowded and I cannot manage the stairs to get my desk?
  • Given my circumstances will it be possible to work in an area where I will have less/little/no contact with other people?
  • If a colleague I have been in contact with tests positive for COVID, will I be allowed to go home/stay at home? 
  • Rather than use public transport, will the company pay for a cab home if I need one? Or provide a parking space so I can drive to work?
  • Who should I contact if I have any concerns around safety?
Other sources of support

You can get advice from:

If you need support to work safely at home or in the workplace, you might be able to get help from:

If you think your employer is treating you unfairly because of your lymphoma diagnosis, the Equality Advisory and Support Service (England, Scotland and Wales) and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland) offer free advice.

If you’d like to talk about any concerns about returning to work, or anything else related to lymphoma, contact our Helpline Services on freephone 0808 808 5555, or via the Live Chat on our website, from 10am to 3pm, Monday to Friday. You can also email information@lymphoma-action.org.uk

With thanks to Barbara Wilson, Founder & Director, Working With Cancer for reviewing this information. 

 

                                                                                                                 Published: 13 July 2021

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