From dentist bills to holidays: Your key coronavirus questions answered

Can my employer force me to take holiday now? Will I still have to pay for a holiday abroad even though I can’t travel? And why am I continuing to pay my dentist every month when they’re shut? 

These are just some of the issues readers have raised in recent days as the country remains in lockdown. 

Sarah Bridge talks to the experts to get the answers.

Show-stopper: Concerts are being cancelled – including one by Andre Rieu, above – due to the coronavirus

Show-stopper: Concerts are being cancelled – including one by Andre Rieu, above – due to the coronavirus


James Morris writes: ‘My boss has told me I have to take my eight outstanding days holiday in the next four weeks. Can my company force this on me and my colleagues?’

Catherine Kerr, partner and head of employment at law firm Primas, replies: ‘Employers have a right to ask employees to take holiday as long as they provide correct notice, which is double the notice of the holiday period. In your case, your employer should have given you 16 days’ notice of its intention for you to take eight days’ holiday. 

‘Whether or not it is reasonable for an employer to ask employees to take holidays during this crisis remains to be seen as the Government’s guidance is silent on this point.’

Richard Wilson writes: ‘My son has a small building business. He has work which can be carried out using all the safeguards advised. Some of the employees want to be furloughed and are refusing to work on site. We can’t afford to furlough them. 

‘Is it ok to lay them off without pay? Or do we terminate their contract seeing that they are refusing to work on site – or are we likely to be taken to court for constructive dismissal?’

Kerr replies: ‘If there is work to be done and it can be done safely and in line with Government guidance, your employees cannot be furloughed as there is work for them to do and you can ask them to do it. You can choose to furlough some employees you don’t need – it doesn’t cost the employer anything.

‘If you decide to terminate their employment on the basis that they are refusing to work, you would need to engage them in a fair and reasonable dismissal process to try to reduce the risk of an unfair dismissal claim via the employment tribunal. 

‘However, only employees that have worked for you for a continuous period of two years or more can claim unfair dismissal.’


Keith Kiely writes: ‘I pay £81 per month via direct debit for dental treatment to Denplan. My dentist is now closed to patients. My dentist has offered to reduce my payment to a lower treatment plan, even though she is no longer treating patients. 

‘During this current situation with limited finances, I feel my monthly payments would be better used helping my family rather than enabling my dentist to continue to earn an income.’

Dentist costs: Patients with a monthly plan with Denplan can suspend cover

Dentist costs: Patients with a monthly plan with Denplan can suspend cover 

Denplan replies: ‘Denplan helps patients spread the cost of treatment over 12 months and we support self-employed dentists by collecting payments on behalf of the practices they serve.

‘We know many dental surgeries are now closed for routine appointments but treatment and cover for emergencies and accidents can still be accessed. Patients can stop payments, suspend cover and start a new policy at a later date, without financial penalty. 

‘Dentists can also put their patients on a lower tariff service for a period of time.’


Helen Pruett writes: ‘I own a pub restaurant which is currently closed in line with Covid-19 restrictions. We should be entitled to a so-called retail, hospitality and leisure grant (RHLG) to compensate us as we are in receipt of rural rates relief. Some of our customers have asked if we could provide takeaway Sunday lunches. Would we jeopardize our grant if we did so?’

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, replies: ‘No. The grants are recognition of the extent of the impact that hospitality businesses are suffering at present, and aim to encourage and support the vital community value of businesses like yours.

‘Providing hot meals, takeaways and even pharmacy and food deliveries for vulnerable, isolated people eases pressure on supermarkets and boosts mental health and wellbeing. The grant is designed exactly for these services – so keep up the good work.’


Tim Warne writes: ‘We have booked a family holiday to Lake Como with Inghams for mid-June. I have received an email asking for the balance of the holiday to be paid. But given this holiday is not likely to happen, am I still expected to pay the balance?’

Brian Brown, consumer finance expert at financial information company Defaqto, replies: ‘While it is likely that the holiday will be cancelled, until it is, you are still liable for the balance of the payment. It would be wise to contact the tour operator and ask them what they propose to do. They may be able to refund your deposit or move the booking to a future date.’

Italian holiday: Our reader wants to know if they should pay the balance for a holiday in June

Italian holiday: Our reader wants to know if they should pay the balance for a holiday in June

Anne Oakes writes: ‘Three friends and I were supposed to be going on holiday with Shearings travel company which has now cancelled all its holidays. They wrote to me saying no refunds were being given but we should forward book another holiday. 

‘We don’t want to book another holiday at this time due to the current situation and health issues – three of us are over 70. We really want our money back. Have we any legal rights to demand a refund?’

Brown replies: ‘You can understand why travel companies are offering customers credit notes rather than refunds as coronavirus is an unprecedented event that will hit tourism hard.

‘But they are required to give you a refund if you demand one. If they do not, then raise a dispute with your card provider.

‘If you are unable to claim a refund from the travel company and the credit card company, you may be able to claim under ABTA or ATOL. If you are unable to claim via any of these methods, you may be able to claim a refund through your travel insurance.’

Shearings adds: ‘As with many other companies operating in the holiday sector, we are offering any customers whose plans have been impacted a holiday credit to re-book for a later date.

‘These holiday credits are covered by ATOL and the Bonded Coach holiday scheme and can be used against any holiday this year or next. Alternatively, customers who are unable to use their holiday credits will be able to discuss options, including a full refund, at the end of July.’ 

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