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Return to work after the pandemic

Volume 695: debated on Thursday 20 May 2021

The petition of residents of the constituency of Glasgow East,

Declares that the covid-19 pandemic has caused huge changes to the working patterns of many people across the UK, with the furlough scheme helping to support many businesses; further that restrictions across the UK are beginning to ease, with more businesses opening their doors, meaning that many people are returning to work; further that, despite the necessary safety precautions, some people with disabilities do not feel comfortable returning to work as of yet, and would rather wait until infection rates and covid-19 cases have fallen further; further that the UK Government should ensure that nobody, particularly a person with a disability or health concern, is forced to return to work; further that the Government should commit to ensuring that the onus is on the employee to make the decision over their return to work, not the employer; further that if an employee wishes to stay on the furlough scheme they should be able to make this decision without repercussion and fear of losing their employment.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to consider ensuring that people with disabilities are able to make the decision on whether to return to work or whether to remain on furlough and that this should be the employee’s decision, not the employer’s.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by David Linden, Official Report, 14 April 2021; Vol. 692, c. 433.]


Observations from The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Jesse Norman):

The Government thank the hon. Member for Glasgow East (David Linden) for submitting the petition on behalf of his constituents about the application of the scheme to employees who have been shielding.

The CJRS is available to all employers and employees providing they meet the eligibility criteria, and this includes Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) individuals. Since the beginning of April, shielding guidance is no longer in place, but CEV individuals can continue to be claimed for like everyone else, subject to the CJRS eligibility criteria.

It is not for the Government to decide whether an individual firm should put its staff on furlough, or take its staff off furlough—that is a decision for the employer, in consultation with the employee. Functions given to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) under the Coronavirus Act 2020 require HMRC to reimburse employers for particular costs relating to the retention of staff who have agreed to be furloughed. The functions delegated to HMRC under this Act do not enable the Government to require employers to furlough their staff or alternatively require employees to agree to be furloughed.

CEV individuals should talk to their employer to discuss and agree options around work, for example, the ability to work from home, or returning to the workplace in a different role if their previous position cannot be fulfilled in a covid-secure manner. Employers are required to take steps to reduce the risk of exposure to covid-19 in the workplace. If CEV individuals have concerns about their health and safety at work they can raise them with their workplace union, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or their local council, and can be reassured that the existing employment rights framework provides protections against discrimination, unfair dismissal and detriment.