Can you go to work if your partner works in a ward treating Covid-19 patients?

18th May 2020

We’ve been asked by a reader whether they can return to work if their partner, who they live with, works on a Covid-19 ward in a hospital.

Regardless of where your partner works, the guidelines in England at the time of writing are still to work from home if you possibly can. 

The government has specified that people who can’t work from home should go to work, such as those:

  • working in supermarkets
  • working in construction and manufacturing
  • working in labs and research facilities
  • administering takeaways and deliveries at restaurants and cafes
  • working in people’s homes like tradesmen and cleaners
  • who are facilitating trade or transport goods.

This is assuming that the person is not showing symptoms or shielding (those who are most at risk of becoming seriously ill from the new coronavirus have been asked to ‘shield’ or stay at home until the end of June). 

Clinically vulnerable people, including those who are in their 70s, pregnant or have chronic illnesses like MS, are allowed to return to work. But government guidelines say they should be offered the option of the safest available on site roles, enabling them to stay two metres away from others. Employers are expected to have taken steps to make workplaces as safe as possible.

Public Health England told us there is no specific guidance on whether partners of those who are working with Covid-19 patients can go back to work. In some cases, healthcare workers have chosen to isolate from their families in hotels or other accommodation, but this is if someone in their family is vulnerable or shielding

But there is nothing in the guidance that says that the partner of someone working in healthcare shouldn’t go back to work, as long as neither are shielding or showing symptoms. 

If a healthcare worker believes they have been exposed to a suspected or confirmed Covid-19 patient without wearing PPE, the advice is that they can remain at work, because this is considered short-lived exposure. However, if they develop symptoms after this, they should inform their line manager and go home if they’re not there already.