Coronavirus advice: Should I go to work?

With so much advice around now, changing by the day, it can be hard to know whether you should be going into work or not. Follow this simple guide for some answers:

Do you or any members of your household have coronavirus symptoms?


Yes, I have coronavirus symptoms


If you have symptoms of coronavirus infection (COVID-19), however mild, the government’s advice is to stay at home and do not leave your house for 7 days from when your symptoms started.

Someone in my household has coronavirus symptoms


The government’s advice is that if you live with someone who has symptoms, you’ll need to self-isolate for 14 days from the day their symptoms started. This is because it can take 14 days for symptoms to appear. If you develop symptoms, self-isolate for 7 days from when your symptoms start, even if it means you’re self-isolating for longer than 14 days. If you do not get symptoms, you can stop self-isolating after 14 days.

Are you or any members of your household in a high risk group?


The government are advising those who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures, which includes working from home where possible.

This group includes those who are:

  • aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (ie anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds): •chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
  • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
  • chronic kidney disease
  • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
  • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy
  • diabetes
  • problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
  • a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
  • being seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above)
  • those who are pregnant

People who are extremely vulnerable are strongly advised to take extra precaution – this is known as ‘shielding’. Clinically extremely vulnerable people may include the following people. Disease severity, history or treatment levels will also affect who is in the group:

  • Solid organ transplant recipients.
  • People with specific cancers:
    • people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy
    • people with lung cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapy
    • people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
    • people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
    • people having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
    • people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
  • People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary (COPD).
  • People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), homozygous sickle cell).
  • People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection.
  • Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired.

If you have any of these conditions you are strongly advised to stay at home at all times:

  1. Do not leave your house.
  2. Do not attend any gatherings. This includes gatherings of friends and families in private spaces, for example, family homes, weddings and religious services.
  3. Strictly avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough.

I have been advised to ‘shield’ as I am in a clinically vulnerable group, or I am in a high risk group


You should not leave your house to go to work. Speak to your employer about whether it is possible for you to work at home.

Someone in my household is shielding or in a high risk group


If you are not shielding or in a high risk group but someone in your household is, you should speak to your employer. ACAS advises that “employers must be especially careful and take extra steps for anyone in their workforce who is in a vulnerable group.” This includes those who “care for someone with a health condition that might put them at a greater risk”.  If you do have to attend work you should follow the government advice on social distancing when you are at work and when travelling to and from work. When you get home from work you should thoroughly wash your hands and follow the government advice for those living with someone who is shielding – including staying 2 metres away from each other, sleeping separately and not using shared spaces unless they’ve been cleaned after each use.

No-one in my household has coronavirus symptoms or is in a high risk group


If no-one in your household has coronavirus symptoms, and no-one is in a high risk group, you should still discuss your working arrangements with your employer. The government advises everyone to work from home where possible.  Your employer should take every possible step to enable you to work from home, including providing suitable IT and equipment to enable remote working. Sometimes this will not be possible, as not everyone can work from home. Certain jobs require people to travel to, from and for their work – for instance if they operate machinery, work in construction or manufacturing, or are delivering front line services.

You may be required to continue attending work if:

  • you do not have any underlying health conditions
  • you are not in an extremely vulnerable group
  • you are not caring for someone at home
  • your job cannot be done at home

However you should talk to your employer about your concerns. You may be able to arrange to take some time off as holiday or unpaid leave. Your employer does not have to agree to this, but they should consider your request.If you have an illness or condition that means you are a disabled person, your employer would be required to consider this as a ‘reasonable adjustment’ under the Equality Act 2010.If you refuse to attend work without a valid reason, it could result in disciplinary action, so it is always best to talk to your employer about your concerns.

For further advice call ACAS on 0300 123 1100 or see their website for information: