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Work and MS during COVID-19

This page has information about COVID-19 and your rights at work if you have MS or live with someone who does. There are laws and guidance for employers to keep you and your workplace safe. Where there are differences between the UK nations, we try to explain these. 

If you can’t find the answer here, or you’d like to talk to someone, give our MS Helpline a call on 0808 800 8000.

We last updated this page on Tuesday 5 April 2022 to reflect changes in England's COVID-19 guidance.

Follow these links for information: 

  1. My employer is asking me to come to work but I'm worried about the risks
  2. I've been advised to work from home but I can’t 
  3. What should my employer be doing to help me at work?
  4. What should my employer do to keep me safe at work?
  5. What should I do if I don’t think my employer is keeping me safe?
  6. I have MS and work in healthcare - should I go to work?
  7. I live with someone who is ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’. Do I have to go to work?
  8. Can my employer fire me because I don’t feel safe at work?
  9. Is there financial support if I’m told to self-isolate?
  10. Can the Job Retention Scheme (furlough) or Statutory Sick Pay help me?
  11. What if I have to look for work?

1. My employer is asking me to come to work but I'm worried about the risks

If the government or your doctor has recommended you self-isolate or shield, you have a right to do that for as long as the recommendation remains. This means you should only work if you can do it from home, and your employer should support that.

If you haven’t been advised to isolate, but you’re concerned about returning to work, you might want to discuss what precautions your employer is taking to keep you safe. Each nation has their own guidance around work, including where to get more information and support.  

Read the government COVID-19 work guidance for England

Read the government COVID-19 work guidance for Scotland 

Read the government COVID-19 work guidance for Wales

Read the government COVID-19 work guidance for Northern Ireland

2. I've been advised to work from home but I can’t

If COVID-19 restrictions or your doctor says you should work from home, but you can’t, you should speak to your employer.

If you have a letter from your GP or the NHS saying you’re at highest risk (or clinically extremely vulnerable), use this with your employer (or the DWP) as evidence you can’t work outside your home.

You can claim Statutory Sick Pay if you meet the usual requirements for this benefit.

Your council will have details of any local restrictions around work. Find your council at gov.uk

    3. What should my employer be doing to help me at work?

    Employers might need to help you work from home, or make “reasonable adjustments” so you can still work.

    Working from home

    Employers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland should help people to work from home where they can. That's still government guidance in those nations. 

    The Scottish Government encourage employers to consider a hybrid approach. That means some time in the office and some time at home, where that can be done safely. 

    In England, government advice is for employers and employees to discuss returning to the workplace. 

    Read the government COVID-19 workplace guidance for your nation

    Agreeing safe working conditions

    Employers everywhere should discuss and agree safe working arrangements with you. This could include making reasonable adjustments so you can safely work from home. For example, this could include making sure you’ve got the right equipment and there’s good ventilation to reduce the spread of infections.

    If you need to go into the workplace, your employer has to do all they reasonably can to create a safe workplace and comply with any social distancing rules in your nation.

    Everyone with MS is covered by the disability provisions of the Equality Act (Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland). Your employer may be required to make reasonable adjustments so you're not put at a substantial disadvantage compared to someone who isn't disabled. If your employer doesn’t agree to make reasonable adjustments, you can complain. You might be able to show they’ve discriminated against you.

    You might be able to get help from Access to Work for adjustments so you can keep working. 

    Read more about reasonable adjustments and what you can do if you think you've been treated unfairly   

    Find out more about an employer’s duties to avoid discrimination during COVID-19 on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website 

    ACAS is an organisation which works for better relations between employers and employees. Read the ACAS COVID-19 guidance for the workplace

    4. What should my employer do to keep me safe at work?

    Employers have a duty to protect people from harm. This includes taking reasonable steps to protect their workers and others from coronavirus.

    In Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, they have to do a COVID-19 risk assessment. This should take into account people with an increased clinical risk from COVID-19.

    In England, they no longer have to do a specific COVID-19 assessment. But they should still take into account the health and safety needs of everyone, including those at higher risk from COVID-19.

    For a COVID-19 risk assessment, employers have to:

    • identify work activity or situations that might cause the virus to spread 
    • think about who could be at risk
    • decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed
    • act to remove the activity or situation, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk

    Employers should carry out their COVID-19 risk assessment in consultation with staff or trade unions, and any employer with more than five employees should publish this for you to see.

    The exact steps organisations need to take will vary. There’s specific guidance for different kinds of work - for example, for education, healthcare and construction. General guidance includes:

    • keeping social distance in the workplace, wherever possible (the rules and guidance on this vary in the different UK nations)
    • managing the risk of infection where people cannot keep socially distant. For example, putting in barriers in shared spaces, and minimising the number of people in contact with one another.
    • cleaning workplaces frequently, providing handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points.
    • reviewing risk assessments often and making sure measures are still working.

    Face coverings and PPE: guidance recommends wearing face coverings and using other personal protective equipment (PPE) in certain situations. This might be more common in some workplaces, like hospitals and care homes. Hairdressers and beauticians might, for example, need to use PPE including clear plastic visors. 

    If your MS or another condition means you can’t wear a face covering or the appropriate PPE, your employer should take this into account when checking the workplace is safe for you. There might be alternative measures that can work for you, or you might discuss changes to your usual role, to control the risks.

    You might be able to get help from Access to Work for adjustments so you can keep working. 

    Read the Welsh Government’s COVID-19 risk assessment tool for workplaces 

    Read the government COVID-19 workplace guidance for your nation 

    5. What should I do if I don’t think my employer is keeping me safe?

    You should discuss this with your employer and contact your trade union if you have one.

    If you’re concerned your employer isn’t taking all practical steps to promote social distancing, you can report it to your local authority or the Health and Safety Executive online or on 0300 790 6787.

    6. I have MS and work in healthcare - should I go to work?

    The Association of British Neurologists (ABN) has published advice for people with neurological conditions working in healthcare.

    They don't recommend that people with MS who work in healthcare need to avoid patients. But they do recommend you avoid courses of ocrelizumab, cladribine, alemtuzumab and HSCT.

    If you work in health or social care, there’s a tool to check your levels of COVID-19 risk on the Welsh government website. Read the Welsh Government’s COVID-19 risk assessment tool for workplaces

    7. I live with someone who is "clinically extremely vulnerable". Do I have to go to work?

    Where shielding has paused, government guidance says you can return to work if your workplace is "COVID safe" and it’s not possible to work from home.

    In Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, governments say employers should help people to work from home where possible. In England, they advise employers and employees to discuss a return to work. And they all have guidance and rules on working safely.

    If your area currently has shielding in place, the right to refuse to go to work will depend on your own situation. For example, it might be argued that by following the government advice on shielding, and strict social distancing at work, the risk is reduced and you should be at work.

    Speak to your employer about any concerns you’ve got, and if you need to get advice:

    In England or Wales, you can contact the MS legal officer. Call the MS Helpline on 0808 800 8000

    8. Can my employer fire me because I don’t feel safe at work?

    If your employer fires you because you don’t feel safe to come to work, this could be an unfair dismissal and discrimination. Employees are protected from being treated unfavourably or dismissed if they refuse to go to work because they reasonably believe that the threat to their health is serious and imminent.

    Whether coronavirus is a “serious and imminent” danger will depend on your particular role and workplace. And how much your employer is complying with the government’s guidance on working safely during coronavirus.

    In England, Wales and Scotland, you can contact ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) which offers free and confidential advice for employees.

    If you’re in England or Wales, you can also contact the MS legal officer. Call the MS Helpline on 0808 800 8000.

    9. Is there financial support if I’m told to self-isolate?

    In England, Wales and Scotland, if you’re told to self-isolate by the test and trace service you might be able to get a support payment of £500, to help cover lost earnings. This scheme ends in England on 24 February. In Northern Ireland, you might be able to get other financial support if you’re told to self-isolate.

    Find out more about financial support if you’re told to self-isolate

    10. Can the Job Retention Scheme (furlough) or Statutory Sick Pay help me?

    The Job Retention Scheme (furlough) ended in September 2021. But Statutory Sick Pay might help you and your employer cover your costs.

    Read more about benefits and COVID-19

    If you have worries or questions about benefits you can get in touch with our MS Benefits Adviser by calling the Helpline on 0808 800 8000 or emailing msbenefitsad[email protected]

    11. What if I have to look for work?

    If you need to look for work, there are laws to protect you from discrimination because of your MS. We've got information on employment righrs, telling an employer about your MS, finding a disability-friendly employer, and what to do if you're treated unfairly. 

    Read more about work and MS

    If you’re facing redundancy, there’s a process that employers must follow. For example, they have to provide proper notice and the offer of a consultation with them. You might be entitled to redundancy pay.

    You must have been selected fairly for redundancy. Illness or disability can’t be a reason. This applies whether or not you’ve been on furlough. 

    You might be entitled to paid time off, to look for work and attend interviews. Some employers might not know about this right, so you may need to ask for it. 

    12. What support can I get to continue working?

    You may be able to get help from Access to Work to continue working or start a new job. You may be able to claim for:

    • extra travel costs such as taxis to and from work if you can't use public transport because of coronavirus (your doctor will need to confirm this)
    • personal protective equipment if you employ a support worker
    • equipment to help you work at your normal place of work, at home, or both.

    You may need to have an assessment of your needs by Access to Work. If you're already claiming Access to Work and your needs change you can contact them to discuss changes to the support you can get.
     
    Access to Work can also support you if you're self-employed, or need help getting to interviews.
         
    Read more information on Access to Work and how to claim on gov.uk

    Remember you're not alone

    We're here for you. If you’re worried about your MS and coronavirus and want to chat to someone, call our MS Helpline on 0808 800 8000. We’re here Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm except bank holidays.

    If you'd like to talk your worries through online with other people who know MS, visit our Online Community Forum today.

    You can join one of our Time to Chat or Virtual Wellbeing sessions and connect online with other people living with MS across the UK. Or you could sign up for an information webinar. We've got plenty to choose from, take a look at our online sessions and see what suits you.

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