I don’t want to go back to the office during the pandemic, what does the law say?

I don't want to go back to the office during the pandemic, what does the law say?

Table of Contents

The feeling that scares many workers who are still not confident with the companies' security measures to combat coronavirus is the same: “I don't want to go back to the office”.

Even though some places are already reopening, for many the fear of returning to normal activities is still great, considering that there is still no vaccine for this disease.

With that in mind, we prepared this post to clarify the following points:

  • the COVID-19 pandemic and remote work;
  • the return of face-to-face activities during the pandemic;
  • the fear of returning to face-to-face activities in the pandemic;
  • the legal issue of the return of face-to-face activities in the pandemic;
  • the home office and the post-COVID-19 world.

If you want to know more about remote work and labor reform, spurred by the new coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), and its impacts on the home office model, we recommend reading this stuff here.

Now, to understand what are the legal issues related to face-to-face work activities, keep following this post.

Good reading!

The COVID-19 pandemic and remote work

With the arrival of the COVID-19 in the UK, in March of this year, many companies were forced to send their workforce back home and act remotely to preserve their commercial survival.

Several adjustments, measures and strategies needed to be revised to help the business be able to remain active to the distance.

A Provisional Measure (MP), 927, inclusive, made to regulate this condition during the quarantine. However, its validity has expired from the 30th of July.

for almost five months in social isolation, some companies are already showing signs that the return of their in-person activities will begin, even if the disease is not yet under control.

“I don't want to go back to the office” is a frequent feeling and people need to be prepared to negotiate this condition. After all, the fear of a new disease, which has killed nearly 890,000 people around the world, is normal.

The return of in-person activities during the pandemic

Many countries, including the UK, have already resumed their work activities after the first major peak in cases of the disease, making trade more flexible and reducing social isolation.

Some companies will remain working in home office and others will change their organizational structure to receive their work team in the corporate environment, others will still maintain both ways of working.

For cases where face-to-face return is the option adopted, it is essential that companies have care, respect and common sense with its employees, customers and suppliers before notifying around its activities.

You will need to take into account:

  • the personal and family health framework;
  • age (risk group);
  • individual condition (pregnancy, mental health, etc.);
  • transportation alternatives;
  • customer preferences regarding product service and delivery;
  • the activity and deadlines of suppliers.

Finally, for companies that return to normal, reopening the business means asking the team to run the risk of being exposed to the virus, and staying closed means that the survival of the business and the employees' jobs are at risk.

The fear of returning to face-to-face activities in the pandemic

Not wanting to go back to the office is a valid feeling. Many still don't think it's safe to return to their normal activities.

second one research performed by Mercer All Access®, 45% of the companies surveyed say they already deal with employees who do not want to return to the workplace for fear of contamination.

This fear is shown in different ways in each person, whether for fear of being contaminated and passing the disease on to family members, or for fear of losing a job.

Also, there is the issue of children. With parents working face-to-face and schools closed, who will take care of the children? Will the company provide day care?

Faced with the economic crisis forced by the strike, many workers will certainly give in to the financial pressure and return to work in person, even though they are still feeling scared.

post pandemic office

To improve this feeling of not wanting to go back to the office, the post-pandemic workplace should be quite different, with:

  • frequent cleaning (knobs, handrails, doors, among others);
  • defined social distance (flexible working hours, relay shifts, new spatial arrangement, new individual protection structure, and so on);
  • hand sanitizer holders (alcohol, gel sanitizers, etc.);
  • limits on the number of people allowed per environment;
  • limits on the number of people allowed in an elevator;
  • new technology that avoids the touch of buttons;
  • towels and disposable utensils.

Returning to the work environment must be safe for employees, and this cannot be negotiated.

The legal issue of the return of face-to-face activities in the pandemic

First of all it is important to make it clear thathuh there is nothing in the law that prevents the worker from returning to work in person. Even if the feeling is “I don't want to go back to the office”, it is directly subject to the orders of your employer, this is also true for professionals who are part of the risk group.

However, the company ofmust ensure that this return is done safely.Therefore, it is necessary to respect the ordinance of the Ministry of Economy, related to the Ministry of Labor, which requires it to adopt social distancing from employees, provide masks and alcohol gel.

Of course, in a pandemic scenario, the risks of contamination in the workplace are not improbable. But the company can invest all its efforts to reduce this threat and reverse the maxim “I don't want to go back to the office”, offering essential care and educating the behavior, conduct and thinking of its professional team.

If the worker does not feel secure, he can report the company to the union, the Department of Labor or the Public Ministry of Labor.

Furthermore, in extreme cases, the employee's refusal is understood as proportional and legitimate. It is the employee's right to go to the Labor Court and make a request for indirect termination of the employment contract, based on article 483, “c” of the CLT.

This article points out that the worker may consider the contract terminated and claim due compensation when he is in clear danger of considerable harm. Employees will be entitled to all monies in connection with an unfair dispute.

However, in an opposite situation, in which the employee fails to comply with the indicated safety measures, the company may give him a warning or even send him away for just cause.

Home office will be a reality in the post-COVID-19 world

According to experts, the practices of home office should be maintained in the post-pandemic scenario. For those who say “I don't want to go back to the office” because they prefer distance acting, this is an interesting and possible novelty.

Remote acting during mandatory social distancing proved that good performance and personal satisfaction have nothing to do with a controlled work environment.

More than a cost reduction for the company, the home office has become an interesting alternative to stimulate motivation of your team.

Some home office benefits:

  • economy with social charges;
  • optimization of the use of corporate space;
  • reduction of wasted resources;
  • tax advantages;
  • increased productivity by reducing work interruptions;
  • more structured labor laws;
  • hiring specialists and talent without worrying about distance.

In addition, with the expenses to structure this action policy during the quarantine, most companies will maintain this condition.

The feeling “I don't want to go back to the office” will be a comfort for those professionals who prefer to work from their homes.

It is worth noting that with the end of MP 927, there is no longer an authorization for the employee to work in a different location than what is stipulated in their contract. If the employer wants to keep the employee in remote work, a specific legal agreement for this should be created.

Therefore, we can conclude that whoever says “I don't want to go back to the office” currently has personal reasons. If the company calls him back to face-to-face work, he may ask for some specific precautions for his safety and well-being.

Did you like the article? So, share it on your social networks with friends who might also be feeling insecure about this feedback.


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