Test and Trace System ‘Could Create Upsurge in Employment Disputes’, warns Employment Lawyer

A leading employment lawyer at Irwin Mitchell has warned that the government’s new ‘Track and Trace’ system could contribute to an increase in workplace disputes.

The government recently launched the system as part of its plans to gradually reduce the lock down. Anyone who develops symptoms of coronavirus must get tested and then self-isolate for seven days.

If the test is negative, they can return to work but if it’s positive, the NHS Test and Trace team will get in touch via text, email or phone to find out the names of those people with whom they have been in close contact with.

Anyone deemed to be at risk of catching the virus will be instructed to self-isolate for 14 days but members of their family don’t have to self-isolate unless someone in the house actually develops symptoms.

However Emilie Cole partner and employment lawyer at Irwin Mitchell has warned employers that they will risk facing an employment tribunal if they threaten staff that they could lose their job by staying away from work.

She said: “I think there’s going to be an upsurge in potential claims.”

She added: “Another issue is that everyone has the right to a safe place of work and if you raise health and safety concerns about that and you’re dismissed or subjected to detrimental treatment, you have a claim in the employment tribunal.

“I think there’s a potential for a lot of claims, but the reality is, do people have the stomach to bring them to a tribunal given their personal circumstances? If they have no other option, then they will.

“I’m sure a lot of unionised companies will have widespread action. It’s all going to kick off after the furlough scheme starts winding down and the money runs out. There will be a lot of redundancies when that ends and it’s just prepping for that at the moment.”