Across the UK, Covid-19 regulations are easing. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland people are advised to continue working from home if they can and in England a slow return to the workplace is expected. Some people with kidney disease may have been back at work from some time, but this change in regulations may mean more are starting to have conversations with their employers about returning to the workplace. Kidney Care UK has heard over the last 17 months that workplace safety has been something that caused a great deal of anxiety and we have campaigned strongly for employment support for people who are at higher risk from Covid-19. As we move into the next stage of the pandemic, we have put together some tips and links for more support that we hope will be helpful.
Employers still have a legal requirement to protect their employees from risks, including Covid-19, and to follow updated working safely guidance. Employers must also consult with workers about health and safety such as reducing transmission of Covid-19. All employers must have the following in place:
- Appropriate ventilation and air conditioning
- Appropriate cleaning procedures and cleaning products
- Handwashing facilities
Talk to your employer early – they are likely to want to do what they can to support you.
1. Ask to discuss the workplace risk assessment with your employer
Your employer must carry out a risk assessment to identify the steps they need to take to protect their workers from harm, including risks to people who are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, and share this with their employees. You could ask for an individual risk assessment if this has not already been done.
2. Help your employer understand your risk and seek advice from your clinician
Your employer may not be aware of how your condition affects your workplace risk from Covid-19, so information you choose to share could help. You may like to show them information from the Kidney Care UK website, for example our Covid-19 information. You might discuss how to manage your risk at work with your doctor (getting it in writing if possible) and share this with your employer. Employers have been asked to consider doctors’ advice.
3. Think about what reasonable adjustments might reduce your risk of Covid-19
The risk assessment process helps your employer consider reasonable adjustments to enable higher risk employees work safely. Think about what adjustments might reduce your risk of Covid-19. Discuss potential changes with your employer and make a request for adjustments in writing (including any advice you have received from your doctor), asking for a written response in a reasonable timeframe, such as 7-14 days.
The Equality Act 2010 requires an employer to make reasonable adjustments so that an employee with a disability has no obstacles to remain in work, for example risk from Covid-19. The specific changes will depend on your workplace and the type of work you do. Reasonable adjustments may include:
- Continuing to work from home
- Changing hours to work avoid peak times on public transport
- Continuing to use the furlough scheme if you cannot work from home and your workplace cannot be made safe
Check whether the Access to Work fund could fund adjustments required to allow a safe return to work (e.g. special equipment or safe travel to and from work). The scheme is prioritising applications from clinically extremely vulnerable people.
4. Use all the support available if you are concerned about your safety or have any questions.
Some people might like to raise any questions about workplace safety in discussion groups and forums, to find out what other people with similar conditions have done or to come up with ideas together.
Where employers are not managing the risk of Covid-19, the HSE and local authorities (depending on the body responsible for health and safety for your employer) will take action. If you have worries you can contact your workplace union, HSE or your local authority, or the organisations listed below. Many patient charities may also be able to provide support
Sources of information about workplace rights and how to solve problems:
We would be very interested to hear from kidney patients about their experiences of working and returning to the workplace, as this can help inform and guide our campaigning work. Please email [email protected] if you would like to share your experiences confidentially with the policy team.
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