Questions about Work

I am Self-employed ?Can I continue to work? (I think my work is essential because otherwise I have no money to pay the bills or pay my mortgage or put food on the table.)
You are entitled to work and entitled to travel to do so, unless you are on the closed businesses list in The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 and referencing the Corona Virus Act 2020 and this means you are an essential worker.

The Government guidance about closed businesses is here
the law is set out in Schedule 2 here

If you are not on the “must close” list then you are entitled to work and entitled to travel to do so.

Interpretation of emergency call-outs or “essential travel” will be determined by the police at their discretion, although they are unlikely to object to reasonable trips. For example. a trip to replace a working oven because someone is renovating their house is unlikely to be essential, (although see below), whereas a rip to replace a broken down oven would fall within essential and/necessary household maintenance.

Update: 24th March : Michael Gove, Cabinet Minister of the UK Government on 24th March on the Today BBC Radio said that you can determine that your own work is essential , especially if you are self-employed. This was before the new CoronaVirus powers were in force and whether you own a business or are self-employed, you’re now covered by Schedule 2 of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020.

As the legislation was passed in a hurry, it is frankly a mess.

Even following help for the Self-employed it remains a mess and if you’re not covered by the Self-employed catch-net you can easily claim that your work is essential in order to feed and house your family and a Court is unlikely to convict you. What is essential is not for the police to decide, it is for a magistrates Court to decide and this is in line with Road Traffic Law where magistrates have accepted self-definitions of emergency or essential by the accused when determining if an offence of driving unnecessarily on a hard shoulder arose. (See the “David Beckham” and the “Alex Ferguson” cases).

It is something that you need to look at carefully and call us if you have difficulty interpreting it.

Businesses such as garages and MOT centres are allowed to remain open although this is peculiar as MOTs have been suspended from 1st April. If you are a mobile garage, this would seem to suggest that you are not required to close and therefore you are still entitled to travel. If you are a mobile car valet business however, you will not fall within the definition of “garage” and then it would seem that you must close. If you are a mobile car repair business, it is entirely unclear. Clearly if you are repairing vehicles that are not roadworthy to make them roadworthy, you’re still OK, but there are grey areas such as car repairs that are “cosmetic” and where the vehicle is still roadworthy.

Some of the measures announced by Government are “best pandemic practice” guidelines and promoted as measures taken to reduce the spread of the virus “so we can strengthen the NHS” (see criticism of the run-down of the NHS elsewhere on this blog) and they have no basis in law because they do not fall within the prohibitions set out in the legislation (but be aware that Ministers can add to the legislative measures under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 (known as the Big Brother Act after the book 1984) and the Civil Contingencies Act, simply by signing these restrictions into law.

There are other grey areas such as in-store concessions, although these are under pressure to close, so Asda opticians which is part of the ASDA supermarket offering is technically allowed as are Argos stores within Sainsburys (although stand-alone Argos stores have been required to close).

If the Public Health Officers or Police turn up and tell you to close and you think you’re within the exceptions, call a solicitor to get advice – and require a letter stating that you must close – this will allow you to sue to police for loss of earnings if you have been unlawfully closed (in line with existing caselaw). You can, of course, close and furlough your staff in any event.

[Note that the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats have called for the extension of 80% support to the Self-Employed and this advice may change if appropriate measures are put in place].

Can a police officer ask a person to prove why they’re out in public?

No. A Police Officer can however ask.
She/He has no more entitlement to an answer than has anyone else on the street (unless you’re acting suspiciously); however refusing to answer may amount to obstruction of the police.
Our advice is:
1. You should provide your name and address
2. You should state that you are carrying out one of the steps in Regulation 6 of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 (i.e. “I’m getting supplies for the essential upkeep, maintenance and functioning of the household” or “I’m travelling to take exercise either alone or with other members of their household”
3. You are not required to prove this and you are entitled to refuse to answer further questions if you choose to, we would suggest being polite “Officer, I have given you my identity and reasons for travel and respectfully request to be allowed to be on my way and require you to let me pass”
4. If you are many miles from home, expect (i) to have to provide further reasons or (ii) to receive a fine and have to give those reasons to the magistrates in due course if you wish to challenge it.
5. The police are then forced to make a decision about whether you have breached the regulations. If they choose to issue you with a fixed penalty notice, you can challenge it in the Magistrates Court.

(The first reported case was that of Ms Dinou who was arrested on suspicion of travel fraud and breaching the restrictions imposed under the new Coronavirus Act 2020 but Ms Dinou’s case was heard at North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court . She was fined £660 and ordered to pay a £66 victim surcharge as well as court costs of £85. Now, following a review by British Transport Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, it has been determined that Dinou was charged incorrectly and her conviction has been quashed. British Transport Police confirmed they will not be pursuing any alternative prosecution.

Similarly a police officer may encourage you to go home, but until the Corona Virus Act is in place, the officer can only make a request.
{Note – there are blog articles on the power of PHO and Police Officers under the CoronaVirus Act once in force].

For those who deliberately flout the law, the Magistrates may impose high fines to act as a deterrent,

I’m a Plumber, Electrician, Builder etc, am I allowed out for Emergency Call Outs?

Yes, This is permitted at the moment (and was confirmed by Michael Gove Cabinet Minister of the UK Government on 24th March on the Today BBC Radio show). It is recommended that, at the target premises, you should use the proper rules on physical distancing – that is try to stay 2m apart – and don’t go if you’re showing symptoms.

I’m a Plumber, Electrician, Builder etc, am I allowed out for my ordinary business?

Yes, This is permitted at the moment (and was confirmed by Michael Gove Cabinet Minister of the UK Government on 24th March on the Today BBC Radio show). It is recommended that, at the target premises, you should use the proper rules on physical distancing – that is try to stay 2m apart – and don’t go if you’re showing symptoms. Going to work at construction sites and similar places of work for builders is permitted as long as the 2m distancing is maintained.
You can travel for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home. With the exception of the organisations covered above in the section on closing certain businesses and venues, the government has not required any other businesses to close – indeed it is important for business to carry on.
As always watch for updates

I work for a Construction site. Can I continue to work?

Yes, This is permitted at the moment (and was confirmed by Michael Gove Cabinet Minister of the UK Government on 24th March on the Today BBC Radio show). It is recommended that, at the target premises, you should use the proper rules on physical distancing – that is try to stay 2m apart – and don’t go if you’re showing symptoms. Going to work at construction sites and similar places of work for builders is permitted as long as the 2m distancing is maintained.

I am a self-employed psychotherapist. Can I continue to see clients at my clinic?

Yes, This is permitted at the moment.
The new provisions for mental health in the Corona Virus Act do not affect you.
You should try wherever possible to avoid having your clients travel in public.
If you and they are travelling by car, then there is no problem, but you need to ensure door handles etc are properly disinfected and you should be using the social distancing rules (physical distancing rules).
It is recommended that, at the clinic, you should use the proper rules on physical distancing – that is try to stay 2m apart – and don’t go if you’re showing symptoms and tell your clients not to do so if they’re showing symptoms.
If public transport is used, that’s OK too as medical purposes are expressly permitted even under the Corona Virus Act.
You should however consider trying to get your clients to use phone or video conferencing instead of a face to face meeting.
Remember – if you are working from home, you must have adequate facilities in place or adequate place to sit where you are not breaching client confidentiality.
This is a permitted meeting under the Corona Virus Act. (There is a purported prohibition on public meetings of two or more people but this is not a public but a private meeting).

I have to go to work on a packed tube because although I could work from home, my boss won’t allow me to work from home.

Point your boss at this page.
The Government has issued a request for workers to be allowed to work from home if they can.

Your boss is risking serious reputational damage if the instructions to work from the office despite being able to work from home become public, you clearly can work from home and in such circumstances, your boss is opening you up to the risk of infection too by making you travel on public transport which may be constructive dismissal.
Remember there are specific powers under the Employment Rights Act which protect you if there is a public health risk or a health and safety risk

It is also a breach of guidelines agreed with trade unions. See our post on rights of workers under Corona lockdown.

If you don’t feel safe in your workplace, you should raise it with your employer, (There are special provisions in NHS environments).
If you can work 2m apart and can regularly handwash, then you should be OK in the workplace but consider the risk if staff have to travel on public transport to get to work.
Employers have a duty to keep people 2m apart and to send home anyone with symptoms.

Update – we now have posts expressly about this so check out our posts and news section

Companies are expected to take socially responsible action and this will depend on the exact circumstances of the employee and is likely to be tested after the event if employment claims are made.

Threatened with dismissal if I don’t come in.
I work in a private gallery which intends to stay open for important clients, I have been told that I must attend the gallery because it can’t afford to close for many weeks. I have been told to sit in the store room and be available for important customers who will call and tell me when they’re visiting. The owner says as the gallery is shut to the public, then this constitutes a non-public gathering and isn’t covered by the Corona Virus Act. .

Private and Public galleries were ordered to close.
Prior to the Corona Virus Act, there were no powers to enforce this closure, but following the Corona Virus Act, Schedule 21 and The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 the gallery shoudl be shut and the owner will face fines and possibly a criminal conviction if it isn’t.

Equally, if you work for a business that is open and refuse to go in, you may be entitled to do so if vulnerable or living with someone vulnerable when you should be furloughed, (as long as your boss knows that this is the case) but otherwise as long as PPE etc is in place together with safe distancing, then you can be dismissed if you don’t come in. (Better employers will simply deem you to have taken unauthorised absence and you can be placed on unpaid leave

Update – we now have posts expressly about this so check out our posts and news section

The Government is offering our company a loan to help us out, however we are already struggling with debt and I am worried that as a Director, I will be personally liable for loans we take from Government if we can’t repay them or that we can’t pay off all of our loans if we take on more debt and I’ll be personally liable.

You are right to be worried. In this case, as things stand at the moment, you cannot take on further debt if you can’t afford to pay it. In determining this, you also have to assume that we’re about to enter a huge world recession. The Chancellor is reconsidering whether the grants that are available to small businesses need to be extended to bigger businesses. Banks are not allowed to take security on your house for a Corona Loan, but you still have to consider whether you can pay the loan back as otherwise you could be trading (and borrowing) whilst insolvent.


I am divorced and have children under 18 and share custody with my ex. Can the children travel between us?

YES. There is no restriction on children travelling between parents in such situations.
It is recommended that you use your car and not public transport, but you can use public transport. Despite the incorrect information published on 23rd March 2020 (which we criticised for breaching Rights of the Child and breaching Human Rights (including proportionality) saying that this was not possible, it is now confirmed by Michael Gove, Cabinet Minister that the original note prohibiting this travel issued on 23rd March was incorrect.
The government guidance on staying at home was admitted to be wrong when it said “Where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.” Cabinet Minister Michael Gove has also tweeted a message saying that this advice was “not clear enough” (political phraseology for “wrong”.

Can I still visit and elderly parent or vulnerable relative?

There is no provision to stop this even in the Corona Virus Act, although the ideal position is to restrict contact – yes you can drop off items etc. You are probably the best judge of how much of a risk you are.
Take sensible precautions –
2. if you are travelling on public transport,
– use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before you go inside your relative’s house,
– take a plastic bin sack and wear an outer layer that you can easily take off and put in the bin sack when you arrive (this means that any clothing contaminated in the trip isn’t going to spread virus throughout the house you are visiting. (This is less important if you’re driving in your own car as it is less likely to be infected).
-remember not to touch until you have thoroughly washed your hands.
3. Wash vegetables and beware that packaging can harbour the virus
4. Limit contact outside your own family

Shielded Persons
If the person you’re visiting has a compromised immune system, then they are known as “shielded persons”. Local authorities are creating schemes for getting food etc to shielded people so keep an eye on this and the forthcoming “Network of Support for Elderly & Shielded Persons (NOSFESPs) .
If your visiting a shielded person, try to limit the contract. If they’re frail however, use the above precautions and make sure that you’re feeling OK because if not, you could be contageous.
*** Wear a mask – it protects others from you! ***

I live in a block of flats? What additional precautions can I take?

The same precautions as everyone else, but be especially aware of the risk of contaminated handrails and door handles, lift buttons etc in the communal areas, Wash your hands properly and wear a mask in common areas. Stay your distance.

In addition, one finding from blocks of flats in China during the SARS epidemic, was that faecal contamination occurred (this means your poo is infectious).
You are normally protected because of the U bend in your sink, but some older sinks have an overflow bypasses the U bend. (If you have this block it with a bit of sponge as this allows the overflow still to work but stop airflow. It is however your shower that is the largest risk (According to research from the SARS epidemic) because this has a very shallow trap and if the trap dries out during the day and then air that is contaminated in the soil pipe can flow back into your shower. You will not smell it because it is at ground level And collect there. You step into your shower and the nice hot steam aerates the virus into your closed shower cubicle which you then breathe in. There is a simple solution – Get a plastic bag of water and tie the top so it doesn’t leak and placed this over the shower drain. This will prevent any contaminated air coming back into your shower. When you have run your shower for a minute you can remove the bag because the flow of water that has built up in your shower will clear the virus when it rushes into the drain into the drain. (For additional protection hold your breath while you do this).

I have a Court Order allowing me to see my children every other saturday at McDonalds. Now McDonalds is closed, can I insist on them being brought to my house?

No, The Closure of the McDonalds restaurants is unprecedented but the Court order is specific,. You will have to apply for a variation of the Order;’ however this may be successfully opposed if the children are living with a vulnerable person (such as granny) because it brings the greater risk of infection/transmission of the virus, both by meeting members of the family the children are not living with and because of the need for public transport. . Similarly the closure of restaurants and other similar places probably means there is no other suitable venue…this is in addition to the slowing down of court processes because of lockdown. You will need to be patient. Reasonable accommodation is however letting you have a phone call with them.

My MOT is due. Do I still have to get it done?

Yes Garages are allowed to remain open under the new restrictions.
MOTs have been suspended for lorries, buses and trailers for up to three months, and MOT testing for cars, motorcycles and light vans after 31st March have also been extended for 6 months but the vehicle must remain roadworthy.

Driving Tests
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has also suspended driving and motorcycle tests in England, Scotland and Wales for up to three months from 21 March 2020, except for critical workers.

I had corona, am I immune now?

From experience with other viruses (including other types of coronavirus) , you should have antibodies to the virus which will protect you and will mean that the virus can no longer get a hold on your system and that you should no longer be infectious. With SARs and other coronaviruses we tended not to see reinfection. (There are a few reports from around the world that people who are released from hospital quarantine subsequent tested positive, but it is not known whether this was problems with the initial tests or subsequent test contamination or whether you can still have a low dosage in your system after recovering. The key thing was that those people were no longer infectious – this is what is referred to as Herd Immunity.

What is the incubation period?

It takes five days on average to start showing the symptoms, scientists have said, but some people will get symptoms much later than this.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says incubation period lasts up to 14 days but some researchers say it may be up to 24 days. Knowing and understanding the incubation period is very important. It allows doctors and health authorities to introduce more effective ways of controlling the spread of the virus. (Incubation is different from Quarantine- Incubation is the period from infection until symptoms. Quarantine is how long you have to self-isolate once symptoms show before you are no longer infectious).

My boyfriend/ girlfriend/ Fiancé / Fiancée lives with their family. Can we still see each other?

The idea of social/physical distancing is to break the chain of viral transmission, but it is unrealistic to stop you meeting.

You are however in technical breach of the Corona Virus Act 2000.

If your family and the other family are symptom free and are observing appropriate social distancing so that they are not at risk, then you and your partner should be able to meet without material change in risk; however if you or your partner are meeting lots of other people, then this will still not apply.
Don’t travel on public transport – it is an unnecessary risk.
Don’t travel is your partner is miles away.
Why not chat to your friends online (- you should not be meeting them anyway) and concentrate for the few weeks of lockdown on your partner. It depends on the particular circumstances. If your partner is living in a multiple occupation household, then this is much higher risk. Assess the risk that your isolation is materially infected.

You are only going to be getting the risk of a virus from one more person, so unless the circumstances are such that there is material risk that your partner is going to be exposed to the virus because of their circumstances then you and your boyfriend/ girlfriend/ fiancé / fiancée seeing each other should not be a material risk.
Remember this is a deadly virus and is killing otherwise healthy people, some in their 20s are dying.

If you’re not in a relationship, don’t use the lay-off time to sleep around, you’ll be at material risk of catching the virus.

If you’re in a relationship, then travel to see each other in a car as long as

Is my car a safe place?

The principal of social distancing is to prevent transmission of viruses between people. If only your family use your car, it should be a safe place. If you’re only going to people you’re already seeing or if you’re only driving to deserted places then this is fine. If you’re driving to somewhere popular – don’t!

It’s my 18th Birthday Party? Can I have it?

Short Answer: only with the family household you live with.
If you’re having a party even in your garden, the police will probably be called and you can be told to disperse.
You may be fined for organising a gathering (or your parents might be fined for owning the premises and allowing this) or both.

A number of people have had large fines imposed because of holding parties. The police have been called and the party is dispersed,. You also get a criminal record which will affect you for years in the job market.

In some cases, after dispersal the party reconvened and the premises owner and birthday person were all arrested (and the party dispersed again) and because the party had been dispersed once, there were additional charges of obstructing the police as well as much higher fines under the relevant Corona Acts.