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Can an employer require an employee to attend a work event within the UK?

07 September 2020

Since 1 June 2020 the restrictions on the public's movements have been relaxed in England. The restrictions on gatherings (which were significantly relaxed on 4 July 2020) do not apply where they are reasonably necessary for work purposes, and there does not appear to be a restriction on overnight trips. Where work-related travel is intended between the nations in the UK, consideration should be given to the local laws and guidance on travel and gatherings.

However, in light of the health and safety considerations, in some cases it will not be either appropriate or feasible to require work travel of this sort, and it may not be a reasonable request in some cases. Social distancing measures may make such an event difficult to carry out, even if it were reasonable to ask the individuals in question to travel to it. The government has also identified clinically vulnerable people and advised them to follow the Social distancing guidance particularly closely.

The Working safely guidance continues to advise against unnecessary work travel. Where workers are required to stay away from their home, their employer should keep a record of their stay and make sure any overnight accommodation meets social distancing guidelines.

Even if the travel could be justified, an employee in the high risk category may have rights under the Equality Act 2010 if the reason that they are at high-risk is linked to a protected characteristic. For example, an employee who suffers from a disability which suppresses their immune system or affects their respiratory system may claim that it is indirect discrimination or discrimination arising from disability to ask them to travel in these circumstances.

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