‘My wife is at high-risk of coronavirus. Can I pretend to be ill to get out of work?’

Linda J. Dodson

I am very concerned for my wife. She’s pregnant and has very bad asthma so is considered to be particularly at risk of getting very ill from coronavirus.

She’s been advised by her doctor to not go out of the house for at least 12 weeks. Her work has been fantastic and said she can do her job from home as long as she needs to, but my boss has been awful. 

I work in a very cramped office, so it’s impossible to keep a two-metre distance from other people and no hand sanitisers have been provided. I’m worried about catching the virus and passing it on to my wife. I tried to ask my boss if I could work from home but he said no, despite the fact that everything I do could be done remotely. He said it would make everyone else want to work from home too and some are not able to.  

When I tried to explain my wife is vulnerable and he just suggested we try living in separate parts of the house. If I just don’t turn up at work, it would be marked on my file and I could be disciplined. 

I’m terrified every day I go in and have sleepless nights imagining what could happen to my wife and baby. I’m considering saying that I have symptoms so that I don’t have to come into work. Anyone in our office who can’t work because they might have contracted coronavirus is getting full pay, whether they’ve been tested or not. 

Is it immoral to fake the virus so I can protect my family? 

JF, Cheshire 

I’m sorry to hear you’re in such a stressful situation at what should be a very exciting time. You must be very worried about your family. 

Unfortunately you have no automatic right to work from home if you live with a vulnerable person. This is leaving many people facing a similarly painful decision. 

Due to your employer’s careless approach to reducing the risk of cross-contamination in the office, it is perfectly plausible that you could have contracted coronavirus. He is also choosing to ignore official advice for workplaces on the safety measures they need to protect employees. 

His excuse for why you cannot work from home is also poor. The Government has advised that anyone who can work from home should. I’m sure your colleagues would not begrudge you the opportunity to work remotely and protect your wife even if they cannot do the same. 

As such, some readers may take the view that your employer is being unfair and it would be entirely reasonable to pretend to be ill to avoid coming in. 

However, given the severity of the current crisis, many others would say that faking symptoms shows poor taste. Families are losing loved ones to the virus and so using it as a tool to protect your own salary at this time is disrespectful to them. 

Why not speak to your manager about your concerns? Perhaps if you explain to them that the situation at work has made you feel it is no longer safe to come in and say you are considering requesting unpaid leave, they may realise the severity of your concerns. If you are a valued employee, hopefully they would prefer to have you continue working, even from home, rather than take a leave of absence. 

If your manager refuses to negotiate, see if you can appeal to someone higher up in the firm who may be more understanding. 

What do you think? Readers can send their responses to each week’s questions by emailing [email protected] or by commenting below.

Put any question to us (and you can do so anonymously) and each week we’ll publish a summary of the best responses. At the same time, we will also pose the next week’s question.

Last week’s Moral Money: ‘Our nursery has asked us to keep paying fees even though it is closed – should we?’

As has happened across the country, my daughter’s nursery has closed as a result of the coronavirus crisis. My daughter has not been attending for two weeks now and we’ve just received next month’s bill. The nursery is asking parents to pay “as much as they can” but “hopefully a minimum of 50pc”.

Normally we pay £1,000 a month for four days a week. The nursery has been excellent at keeping in contact, sending work sheets and suggestions for activities to do at home. They have said they are applying for all the Government help available (a loan for the business and help paying staff wages) but that they need more cash to keep running. There is no suggestion the fees will be offset against future costs.

Our household income has not (yet) fallen, so we can afford to keep paying even though we get little in return and are finding working from home with a two-year-old a huge struggle.  Should we pay 100pc of fees, 50pc, or none at all? If the lockdown lasts for six months, we will have spent thousands of pounds on nothing. 

JH, Kent

Poll results: Should you pay nursery fees if it is shut?

Yes, 100pc of your normal fees, 8pc; Yes, 50pc of the full rate seems fair, 55pc; No, you are not getting what you pay for, 35pc; other, 2pc.

‘They should make enough money to cover it themselves’

Have a look at their accounts and ask them to justify the profit they make. Why can’t they use their reserves to cover what overheads they have during closure?

Mark Duncan, via comments 

‘Do you want nurseries to collapse entirely?’

What will you do for child care if this excellent sounding nursery is forced to close and is unable to reopen after the crisis? Paying what you can now may enable this establishment to weather the storm. You’re very lucky to have not yet suffered any loss of income.

Ann Higman, via comments 

‘Why are they asking you to cough up when you don’t need to?’

Nurseries should be looking first at making a claim on their insurance for business interruption, using their cash reserves and/or government support before they consider writing to parents asking them to pay. The Government has announced a lot of support already including covering 80pc of staff wages, mortgage holidays, etc so I would go back to the nursery and ask them if they are using these facilities.

David Pinder, via comments 

‘Only help them out if you’re sure they can survive’

I’d probably be willing to stump up 30pc, but I would not hand it over until the nursery is back up and running.  The reasons being that I’d want to ensure my child still had a place and if the finances of the nursery are so poorly managed that they crash despite the help available I don’t want to be throwing my money into a black hole. Help them, if they’re worth it, but not yet.

Jackie Jackson, via comments 

‘Be sympathetic to the situation’ 

The nursery may be obliged to pay ongoing expenses for which it has contracted, even if it doesn’t now need them, such as cleaning, provision of meals, laundry, gardening.

Help Me Rhonda, via comments 

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