Shielding and the Return to Work

The Government has announced that those individuals who were considered extremely vulnerable and who had been advised to shield (i.e. quarantine themselves indoors, away from others and until very recently not to venture out for any reason) will no longer be required to do so from 6th July 2020 when they will be able to meet more people from outside their household. Then from 1st August the restrictions will be lifted further so that employees affected will be able to return to work.

This means that those businesses who had been paying vulnerable staff either SSP or at a furlough rate if the employees had not been able to work from home, will no longer be required to do so as they will be expected back at work. Of course, if they become ill or are contacted by the test and trace system, then the normal sick pay arrangements will need to be put in place again.

There will be some employers that will still be furloughing staff for business reasons (whether full time or on a flexible arrangement) and this may be the case for those who had formerly been shielding. But if not, there will be the expectation that the employees will be returning to work.

Those employees who have been Shielding since the 23rd March are likely to be quite nervous about mixing with others again at work because they have been isolated for such a long time. Therefore, it is very important that employers start a conversation with them now to help allay any fears about the arrangements at work and how the social distancing measures will protect them. Spend time going through your risk assessment and the Covid Safe arrangements that you have in place and agree how they will return.

You may consider agreeing to a part-time arrangement initially so that the employee gets used to working again gradually. They may have some annual leave that they could use to facilitate that. Of course, if they have been working from home during the shielding period, there may be no immediate need for them to suddenly return to the office. Each situation will be different so consider each case on its merits. If you have an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP), remind the employee of the online counselling number in case they have any worries that they would like to discuss confidentially.

For the up-to-date information from the Government see: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19

If you would like further advice on this, please get in touch.
Posted on 23 Jun 2020
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