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Should I Go To Work? How to Know If You’re a Key Worker

Moneymagpie Team 24th Mar 2020 2 Comments

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The latest Government instruction is to stay at home – unless you’re a key worker heading to or from work.

But what is a key worker – and how do you know if you are one? We’ve heard reports of many businesses insisting their company offers vital assistance to the current coronavirus crisis (Sports Direct, we’re looking at you). So, what can you do if your boss insists on keeping the business open?

What is a Key Worker?

A key worker is someone who fulfils a vital role to essential services while the rest of the country is shut down.

Medical staff, retail workers in essential shops, and delivery drivers are all key workers. Without them, the lockdown wouldn’t be possible. People wouldn’t receive essential services like healthcare.

Who is a key worker?

The Government released a list of key workers when the schools closed. If you’re on this list, attend work as normal. You can also send your child to school during normal school hours, to reduce the need for you to find childcare.

The list isn’t role-specific but does cover a range of industries considered vital to the continued running of the country. You may find that you work in a key industry but are not required to work, requested to work from home, or will be reallocated elsewhere in the company on a temporary basis.

communications staff are key workers

Utilities, Financial, and Communication Services

Internet and phone providers, energy companies, and banks offer essential services to the public and to businesses.
If you’re an engineer, a customer service representative, or a bank clerk, you’ll carry on as normal. Some roles can work from home to minimise risk.


Train drivers, station staff, ferry operators, and those responsible for maintaining the highways are all essential workers.

This includes freight operators – including cargo pilots, airport management, and logistics staff.

Food and necessary goods production

Anyone responsible for getting food to the supermarkets or people’s homes is a key worker. That includes farmers, retail workers, food production manufacturers, and delivery drivers.

This includes essential retail workers – grocery shops, petrol stations, and smaller local retail outlets offering vital goods such as medicines or food all employ key workers.

This includes pet shops and vets, because without this specialist support our animals would quickly suffer.

Public safety and national security

All military forces, police, fire and other security staff are key workers. This includes all civilian staff offering support and administrative purposes, particularly in logistics and delivery roles.

Prison staff and probation offers are also front-line key workers required to attend their jobs as usual.

Local Authority Staff and National Government Employees

If you work for your local council in any capacity, you’re a key worker. This includes administrative staff, customer service representatives, waste management services, and logistics.

Anyone working for a Government organisation, including the Job Centre, benefits systems, or intermediary communications is also a key worker.

Education and childcare

Teachers, nursery staff, and social workers make up this section. Schools have closed but are still accepting vulnerable children and those of key workers both during normal term-time hours and through the Easter holidays.

Construction workers, builders, plumbers, and electricians

There’s some confusion whether construction workers and tradespeople are key workers. Many construction companies are closing their sites – if this applies to your current contract, your employer or agency will let you know.

Some construction, such as on hospitals, is essential. Construction companies will continue to operate until they’re instructed otherwise.

If you’re a self-employed tradesperson, such as a plumber or electrician, do NOT continue your usual jobs. You can, however offer an emergency service – such as repairing broken boilers. It may feel hard to postpone work right now – but it’s for your safety and those of your customers.

Health and social care workers

Doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants, social workers, carers, and anyone working in the manufacture and distribution of medical supplies are essential in this time of need. They are definitely key workers!

Those working for charities that support vulnerable people, offer domestic violence support, and provide help for people with specific illness such as cancer, are also key workers.

I’ve been reallocated – what does that mean?

If your current job isn’t considered a key role, but your employer offers a vital service, you may be reallocated to another role temporarily.

For example, administrative staff in head offices have been reallocated to assist local grocery stores to aid with restocking the shelves.

Your employer has a right to request a temporary reallocation except where it will cause serious harm or inconvenience. For example, if you’re asked to undertake a physical job but have mobility problems, or if you’re normally based in London and you’re asked to work in Edinburgh.

You’ll receive your normal salary during your reallocation.

How about if I’m sick?

Sick key workers get SSP

Unfortunately, at the moment there is no additional support for key workers who become ill or have to self-isolate because a member of their household is ill.

You’ll receive your company’s standard sick pay allowance if there is one. Otherwise, you’ll be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (£94.25 a week) from the first day you’re ill, up to 13 weeks.
Some companies may offer extended sick pay policies in this time – you’ll need to speak to your employer to find out.

What if my boss insists we stay open – but we’re not key workers?

The Government has officially told everyone that’s not a key worker to remain at home.

If your business is not providing an essential service, your workplace must close. Any company refusing to close is flouting the new rules. You have a right to work from home.

You must be given the opportunity to work from home wherever you can. Expect a full salary for this.

If your job cannot be done from home, your employer can apply for the Job Retention Scheme. This Government grant pays 80% of your wages for at least the next three months.This scheme costs your employer nothing and ensures you receive some income.

Got more questions?

If you’ve got more questions about the confusing coronavirus world – or anything else money-related – hop on over to our brand-new forum! Get stuck in, ask questions and chat with other Magpies to get your questions answered.

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4 years ago

I’m a self-employed dog walker. Dogs need exercise and many people can’t currently leave their homes. I consider my work more important than ever during this crisis.

Jasmine Birtles
4 years ago
Reply to  Tom

Yes, agreed!

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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