Updated Shielding Advice – What it means for Employees and Employers?

As you may be aware the Department of Health and Social Care has updated its guidance for those who are deemed ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’.

The guidance states that those who are classed as clinically vulnerable, will no longer be required to shield from 1 April 2021, however, the guidance states that you should continue to follow the guidance, in place at that time, and ensure you maintain social distancing.

What does this mean for clinically extremely vulnerable employees?

The change means that employees are no longer required to shield and as a result, are no longer entitled to statutory sick pay when shielding.

The guidance to work from home, where possible, remains in place. However, clinically extremely vulnerable employees, are being told they should return to work, if they are unable to work from home, from 1 April 2021.

It is important for employers to note that for some employees this updated guidance may be of concern.

What are the options for an employee who was previously advised to shield?

If the updated guidance affects you, I recommend you contact your employer as soon as possible, and see whether you are able to work from home.

If you are unable to work from home and you are concerned about returning to the workplace, you can ask your employer to place you on furlough, as the scheme has been extended until 30 September 2021.

If your employer requires you to return to the workplace, they are required to take steps to reduce your risk to Covid-19. As such, you can request confirmation of what measures your employer has/or will put in place.

If you consider, more measures are required or you still have concerns, I recommend you discuss these with your employer, at the earliest opportunity. It may be the case, your employer allows you to take holiday, for a short period, until you feel comfortable returning or until they can facilitate you working from home.

If a longer-term solution is required, then you could request unpaid leave.

Mask shielding

What should Employer’s do?

If you are an employer, who is considering asking your extremely clinically vulnerable staff, to return to the workplace from 1 April 2021, I recommend you contact them as soon as possible and provide them with the following information:

  1. Whether the employee can work from home. If an employee cannot work from home, provide an explanation for this.
  1. Whether the employee can be placed on furlough, and if not, provide an explanation for this.
  1. What measures you have or will put in place to protect them from Covid-19, when they return.
  1. Open a dialogue and ask if the employee has any specific concerns about returning to the workplace, to enable you to consider if you could put further, reasonable, measures in place to alleviate the employee’s concerns.
  1. Above all, you should listen to the employee and seek advice, to ensure you are not opening yourself up to a possible Employment Tribunal claim.

If you engage with your employees at an early stage and listen to their concerns, it should help prevent disputes arising.

As an employer, you should also complete and update your covid risk assessment, this will not only highlight any measures, which need to be considered and implemented, but will also provide peace of mind to employees, who may be concerned.

We have prepared a checklist for employers to use when bringing an employee back from furlough and you can download a copy to use for free from here: Checklist for employee returning to work after furlough

Photo by Lucas George Wendt on Unsplash

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The information contained in this blog post is provided for guidance and is a snapshot of the law at the time it is written. It is provided for your information only and should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice that it specific to your particular circumstances.

The guidance should not be relied upon in any decision making process. It is strongly recommended that you seek advice before taking action.

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