This information will help you if you are concerned about your situation at work and your finances during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We recommend looking at our risk article first to work out your individual risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19 and how this may impact your safety at work. Remember that your risk level may change if you are in a flare, come out of a flare or change medications. If your condition changes make sure to reassess your risk level and let your employer know.
Currently all UK nations are advising people to work from home if they can. This advice will end as restrictions ease. To see the latest news regarding restrictions where you live, visit the relevant websites:
Everyone, including those with no underlying health conditions, is exposed to a certain degree of risk from coronavirus, and the level of risk will depend on individual circumstances. Absolute safety can never be guaranteed.
The more people you are in close contact with, the higher the risk of catching coronavirus. Check your individual risk level here to see how your Crohn’s or Colitis and the medication you take may affect your risk of becoming seriously unwell with COVID-19.
In terms of your risk at work, it is worth considering:
- How you get to work.
- Who you work with.
- How many people you come into contact with at work.
- What type of setting you work in.
If you are in the high risk group (clinically extremely vulnerable), you are no longer advised to shield, and you may be asked to attend the workplace if you cannot work from home.
Speak to your employer early. Find out what they expect from you over the next few months and what they are doing to help protect their employees.
Employers should carry out a risk assessment and put steps in place to manage risk during the coronavirus pandemic.
If you have access to occupational health and employee assistance programmes in the workplace, these services can also provide you with a range of health support and advice for your physical and mental health needs.
Your employer has a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments to help you work safely with a disability or health condition. Examples of things your employer can do to help reduce your risk include:
- Ensuring indoor spaces are well ventilated.
- Spacing out desks to avoid close contact.
- Reducing the number of contacts you have each day.
- Allocating individuals a desk instead of hot-desking.
- Using face masks in crowded spaces.
- Access to handwashing facilities.
- Flexible working and staggering shifts.
- Restricted duties to avoid direct contact with people infected with COVID-19. (If you work in the NHS, see guidance from NHS employers for further information)
Some workplaces may ask employees to carry out regular lateral flow testing. The government is also encouraging some businesses such as nightclubs to use the NHS COVID Pass to lower risk to the employees and the customers.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published guidance on protecting vulnerable workers, including advice for employers and employees on how to talk about reducing risks in the workplace.
Your employer should be aware of the Health and Safety Executive guidance on 'Talking to your workers about preventing coronavirus'
Your employer may not understand why you are more at risk than others. We have created a letter that you can show your employers which may help communicate your condition and your concerns.
Employers may not understand the unpredictable course of Crohn’s and Colitis. If you develop a flare or change medications you may be more at risk. See our guide for employers for more information.
If you still feel your employer is not taking reasonable steps to help protect you, you can raise a concern in the following ways:
- Report this to your local authority
- Contact your employee representative
- Contact your trade union if you have one. If you're not a member of a trade union, you can find advice on joining one here.
- Use the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) contact form
- Contact HSE by phone on 0300 003 1647
The Health and Safety Executive can then take a range of actions, including where appropriate requiring your employer to take additional steps.
You may also want to visit Equality Advisory and Support Service. They can provide advice and support for people who are experiencing discrimination based on their disability or health condition.
If you are not comfortable going into work, your employer could consider applying to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. However, your employer does not have to agree to this. If you refuse to attend work without a valid reason, it could result in disciplinary action. If you need advice, you should contact ACAS for impartial advice about work disputes.
We are also working hard to increase awareness amongst occupational health professionals of the risks associated with Crohn’s and Colitis.
Your individual circumstances may mean you can work at home. However, you may be worried about the people you live with going out to work. See our information on communication and wellbeing to help you have a conversation about your risk and concerns. Mind also has information on mental wellbeing as restrictions ease.
If you cannot work because you have coronavirus symptoms or are self-isolating, you may be able to get some money from the government to help with lost earnings.
- A one off payment (different schemes across the devolved nations)
- Statutory Sick Pay (from your employer)
- New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Universal Credit
- Pension Credit
This may also cover time needed to self-isolate before an elective medical procedure such as surgery or colonoscopy.
If your employer is asking for evidence to show you’re self-isolating due to coronavirus, you do not need to contact your doctor. You can get an isolation note from the online NHS 111 service.
See the government website for further information on what financial support you may be eligible for.
Access to Work is a scheme you can apply for which may provide support for the extra costs of working with a disability or health condition. This can only cover costs that are beyond standard reasonable adjustments an employer must provide.
Access to Work can help you, for example, with the costs of taxis to work. This would mean you can lower your risk by avoiding public transport. It may also be able to help with the costs of making adaptations in the workplace.
The government has stated that it will prioritise Access to Work applications from those classed as clinically extremely vulnerable.
If you live in England, Scotland or Wales, you can apply for the scheme here.
There is a very similar scheme, also called Access to Work, in Northern Ireland. Find out more here.
If you are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable and cannot work from home, your employer may be able to access support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This scheme has been extended until 30 September 2021.
You will remain on payroll (as an employee) but you'll be put on furlough - a flexible temporary absence from work. You will receive 70% of your salary for your hours not worked (this was reduced from 80% on 1st July 2021).
Your employer can also put you on furlough if you're unable to work because you have caring responsibilities due to coronavirus, such as needing to look after your children because their school has closed.
For more information visit Check if your employer can use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme aims to help those who are self-employed and have lost income due to the pandemic. The scheme has been extended until September 2021. If you've previously been eligible to claim through the Self-Employment Support Scheme, you will likely be eligible to claim again (even if you did not previously claim).
You may also be able to claim support through the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme as well as Universal Credit. See the government website to find out more about help available for self-employed workers.
If you are on a low income or out of work, you may qualify for benefits – such as Universal Credit or Employment Support Allowance. Check what payments you could get from the government using this benefits calculator.
If you are at risk of redundancy, or you've been made redundant, your employer should have been through a process to make sure you were selected for redundancy in a fair way. You can find detailed information on what is considered fair from Citizens Advice.
Your employer also must not discriminate against you because you have a health condition. Acas provide more information on the redundancy process and guidance on how to appeal a redundancy decision if you think you've been treated unfairly.
As an employee you are protected by law against unfair treatment and dismissal, if it's because of:
- A health condition that's considered a disability under the Equality Act – some people with Crohn’s or Colitis may fall into this category.
It doesn’t matter how long you've worked for your employer. It could be unlawful discrimination on these grounds, if an employer either:
- Unreasonably tries to force someone to go to work.
- Unreasonably disciplines someone for not going to work.
The existing employment rights framework provides protections against discrimination, unfair dismissal and detriment. Specific guidance has been published for employers and workers on work absences due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
Citizens Advice also has information about your rights at work and how to solve problems in the workplace.
If you are finding it difficult to pay your bills – such as your rent, mortgage, water or energy bills – you should call your landlord or providers and explain your situation. Many have extra measures they can take to help people who are struggling to make payments due to coronavirus. See Citizens Advice for lots of advice about what you can do if you're struggling to pay your bills.
If you're getting into debt and you're struggling to cope, you must get help as soon as possible. You can access free expert advice based on your individual financial situation from StepChange or the National Debtline. They can help you find solutions and get you started on the next steps you can take to manage your debts.
ACAS - for free impartial, confidential advice on workplace rights, rules and best practice. Helpline: 0300 123 1100
Coronavirus Advice Scotland
Advice for those living in Scotland on employment, housing and personal finance, as well as cancellations and consumer rights.
Helpline: 0808 800 9060
Disability Rights UK
Personal Budgets Helpline: 0330 995 0404
DWP - Employment and Benefits Support
Information about the changes the government has brought in to support people who are already claiming benefits, need to claim benefits, or are at risk of losing their job as a result of coronavirus.
Equality Advisory Service - for help with equality and discrimination
National Debtline - for practical help managing debt
Tel. 0808 808 4000
Live chat service available on website
StepChange - for practical help managing debt
Tel. 0800 138 1111
Live chat and message service available on website
Organisation helping people in financial need gain access to welfare benefits, charitable grants and other financial help.