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Are companies legally responsible for workers’ commutes?

As some professionals begin to return to the workplace, Kate Hindmarsh, partner and head of the employment team at Langleys Solicitors shares her thoughts on what it means for businesses, and why employers should initiate discussions with workers as soon as possible.

“Now that the lockdown is beginning to ease, the workforce is being asked to return to work if they cannot work from home. Whenever possible workers are advised to get to work on foot, by cycling or by using their private vehicles. For some, however, the use of public transport will be necessary. Providers of public transport are looking at COVID-19 prevention measures such as social distancing and more regular cleaning, to reassure users, and workers are being encouraged to avoid using public transport at peak times, to wear face coverings, and to wash their hands at the beginning and end of every journey.

“Ultimately there will be some workers who are genuinely concerned about how they get to their place of work. Employers should initiate discussions with workers about their travel plans and have a dialogue about what is and is not possible depending on the workers particular needs and circumstances. Workers have entered into a contract of employment which requires them to make themselves available for work, and they should be doing so if they cannot work from home.

“The stark reality is that employers are not responsible for risks associated with the commute, but they should be alive to any concerns and engages in a dialogue to seek to deal with those concerns.”