Skip to content

Can I dismiss an employee who refuses to return to work?

Potentially. The first question is why the person is not able to return, as their individual circumstances will be very relevant in terms of whether they can be safely dismissed.

Employers should ask themselves 2 questions in this situation:

  1. Have I done everything I am required to do in order to make the workplace safe for the individual to return; and
  2. Is what the employee saying reasonable?

If the answer to question 1. is no then a dismissal is unlikely to be fair. However, even if the answer to question 1. is yes, then there is still question 2. to address. If the employee has reasonable grounds as to why they are unable to return to work, e.g. due to health issues, childcare responsibilities etc then the dismissal is unlikely to be fair. It is only if you can answer yes to question 1. and no to question 2. that you can have some confidence in the potential safety of the dismissal.

Dismissals based on objections to returning to work on health and safety grounds will very often be risky and are highly fact specific, therefore please contact one of the employment team for further advice prior to dismissal.

Related FAQs

Can I ask for relief from KPIs or service credits under a contract with a public sector body if the Covid-19 outbreak means that I am having difficulty in performing it?

The Cabinet Office has published a useful Procurement Policy Note (“PPN”) on relief available to suppliers due to Covid-19 (available here). In brief, you should not be penalised by a public sector body, if, in the current circumstances, you are unable to comply (fully or partly) with your contractual obligations. Public sector bodies are expected to work with suppliers and, if appropriate, provide relief against current contractual terms. This is in order to maintain business and service continuity and avoid claims being accepted for other forms of contractual relief, such as the occurrence of a force majeure event.

The types of relief that may be available to suppliers to the public sector will depend on the existing contracts in place. Some contracts may have a payments by result mechanism, whereas others may be based on certain key performance indicators (KPIs) being met. Other contracts may not include any such mechanisms and therefore it will be a matter for discussion between suppliers and the public sector body.

The PPN provides that, rather than a supplier seeking to invoke a clause that would permit the supplier to suspend performance of its obligations (such as a force majeure clause), public sector bodies should first work with the supplier to amend or vary the contract. Any changes should be limited to the particular circumstances and considered on a case-by-case basis. Changes could include:

  • Amending the contract requirements
  • Varying timings of deliveries
  • Relaxing KPIs or service levels
  • Extending time for performance (e.g. revising a contract delivery plan), and/or
  • Preventing the public sector from exercising any rights or remedies against the supplier for non-performance (e.g. liquidated damages or termination rights).

These should only be temporary variations and the contract should return to the original terms once the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on the contract has ended. Discussions with the public sector body about any changes that are agreed should be documented, in a variation signed by both parties.

A public sector may also need to take account of regulation 72 of the Public Contract Regulations 2015, to ensure that any changes to a contract (even of a temporary nature) do not trigger a requirement to conduct a new tender process. Whilst this may be unlikely to be the case with temporary variations, suppliers should still bear this in mind when discussing any changes to a contract with a public sector body.

If you are a supplier to a public sector body and you are currently struggling to meet your contractual obligations, we recommend that you take legal advice as to whether it might be possible to take advantage of the flexible approach that the PPN requires public sector bodies to adopt – it could be that you can avoid service credits or other financial deductions, or the need to serve formal notices such as “force majeure” or other relief notices.

 

 

I'm self-isolating and understand that it takes some time to get a Lasting Power of Attorney registered. What can I do in the meantime to enable someone else to operate my bank account and pay my bills?

The Office of the Public Guardian is continuing to accept applications to register Lasting Powers of Attorney but their usual estimated timescale of eight to ten weeks is likely to be affected by the current situation.

Consequently, an alternative or interim measure if you need something quickly is to execute a General Power of Attorney to authorise someone to act as your Attorney to undertake day to day financial transactions for you. The General Power of Appointment only needs to be executed by you in the presence of a witness (not the Attorney) to be valid and does not need to be registered with the Court of Protection. However, the Power of Attorney would cease to have effect if you become incapable of managing your affairs. It should be seen as a stop-gap only.

What is Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)?

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (“CBILS“) is open for applications to provide small businesses with a loan of up to £5m to assist with the Covid-19 outbreak. The Scheme is aimed at businesses who are experiencing lost or deferred revenues, and who otherwise would be denied support from lenders, to be supported by a Government backed guarantee. The Scheme will initially run for six months with the possibility to be extended where required, so businesses should only approach a lender under the Scheme as and when they require assistance.

What is classed as a good ratio of MHFA to staff numbers?

There is not a magic number. It depends on the nature of the organisation, the work carried out, the organisational structure, the geographical spread, working patterns and conditions. We would give specific advice personalised to the organisation and taking all these and other factors in to consideration. There is no such things as too many MHFAs!

How is the Court of Protection dealing with matters during the Coronavirus pandemic?

The current situation with the coronavirus pandemic has presented obvious challenges to the effective and fair operation of the Court of Protection (COP). Remote access to the COP has therefore become a necessity to ensure that hearings continue to provide proper access to justice. All parties involved in such cases have a responsibility in achieving this primary aim.