Q: It is no secret that my wife is medically vulnerable, however her condition is not one that puts her into the ‘at risk’ category for contracting Coronavirus. I was therefore completely taken aback when my employers started talking about ending my employment with them because they said they could not be responsible for putting her at risk. I argued that she is not at risk but so far they have not said they are changing their minds. I think they are just using this as an excuse to get rid of me. What can I do?
A: This should not happen, but we are being contacted by other people with similar stories, which is very worrying. Both employment relationships and employment disputes can be put on hold in the current climate and furlough leave is available to those who were “on the books” on or before 19th March 2020.
If your wife is not at any particular risk regarding COVID-19, your employers should not be ending your employment for that reason. If they have genuine worries about being responsible in any way for Covid-19 being “brought home” from work, then that is a valid concern and you should talk to them about the furlough scheme. Point out that they will get back 80% of what they pay you, provided you cease to work for a minimum of 3 weeks. You may get less take home pay, but you will not have to pay to travel to work. This may therefore be a solution that eases their worries without costing them anything and it may protect your job.
If they do dismiss you, then you should speak to a solicitor, as failing to use the furlough leave scheme – the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – could be seen as rendering the dismissal unfair as all possible options were not properly considered.