Public Health England have issued new shielding guidance to people who have been categorised as extremely clinically vulnerable. The guidance will come into force on April 1st 2021.
The guidance advises that people in such category will no longer be advised to shield and will no longer be eligible for SSP, Employment and Support Allowance or any other similar benefits on the basis of being advised to shield. In addition to this, the guidance reinforces the importance of continuing to follow the regulations that are in place for everyone during the pandemic.
Given that the guidance on going to work states that everyone is advised to work from home where possible and those who cannot work from home should go to work, the new guidance is likely to create an issue for some employees who will be unable to rely on shielding as the reason for not attending work after 1st April.
Employers may find their extremely clinically vulnerable staff objecting to a request which requires them to return to work. In such a case, employers should consider homeworking or redeployment into a role that allows homeworking. If an employee is required to return, employers should be careful to ensure an employee does not suffer any discrimination if they are treated detrimentally as a result of their wish to remain away from work.
Employers should also ensure that the appropriate BEIS guidance has been followed and the correct risk assessments (such as supply of PPE, social distancing measures and adequate cleaning in the workplace) have taken place in order to mitigate the risks of contracting Covid-19 in the workplace.
In certain cases, it may also be beneficial for an employer to check their employer’s liability insurance policy to ensure they would be covered should an employee classed as extremely clinically vulnerable return to work and contract Covid-19 in the workplace.
Full details of the guidance can be found on https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/