Public Health England has issued new guidance to those categorized as extremely clinically vulnerable.
The guidance confirms that, from 01 April 2021, employees will no longer be advised to shield. Where possible if employees are able to work from home, they should continue to do so. However, if employees are unable to work from home due to the nature of their role, managers should discuss a plan to provide a supportive return to work.
Although clinically extremely vulnerable employees will no longer be advised to shield, we still recommend that employees should take extra precautions to protect themselves. In addition to this, employees must continue to follow the regulations that are in place for everyone during the pandemic. This includes rules on mixing with people from other households. The updated guidance can be found in the following link: 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
Line managers should contact all employees who have been shielding. The line manager and the employees should discuss the return-to-work plan, review the risk assessment to see if there have been any changes to the risk factors and discuss what their first day and week back at work will look like. This might mean support for employees to their work environment or the continuing of working from home, whichever is appropriate.
Whilst planning the return back to work managers must be reasonable about what the first week at work for the member of employees would look like, giving consideration to the fact that they haven’t been in work for a considerable period of time and support their integration back into the work.
Line managers must ensure that a return-to-work discussion must be completed with each member of employees.
Despite the welcome reduction in infection rates, many employees may still be concerned about their risk of exposure to Covid-19 if they return to work. These discussions should be sensitive and understanding and focus on both individual and workplace risk.
All employees should continue to follow national guidance on infection prevention and control and on the use of personal protective equipment.
No this is not required, unless there are significant changes in the risk assessment which presents greater risk in comparison to their original risk assessment. It is anticipated that risks will lessen to reflect the infection rates reducing.
Prior to Shielding, employees may have done a personal risk assessment for Covid and will have been working with an appropriate risk reduction plan in place. As the background Covid rates are now significantly lower, employees do not need any further adjustments to their risk assessment or risk reduction strategy unless a personal risk assessment has not yet been completed or there have been changes to their risk factors.
Employees who have been shielding have not been sick and therefore there is no requirement for a phased return back to work. If an employee feels the need for a phased return back to work, then the line manager must explore the reasons for it and discuss any workplace adjustments. Employees have the option to use annual leave if they want to.
Members of the household who are not clinically extremely vulnerable should continue to attend work if they are unable to work from home, in line with the wider rules set out in the national lockdown guidance.
Employees who are awaiting their second dose of vaccination can return back to work. If they have any concerns about returning to work, in the first instance they must discuss this with their manager who will explore the reasons and any support that can be offered to support their return-to-work plan. Advice from occupational health is available where required.
If you are worried and anxious about returning to work, then please speak to your line manager and explain your concerns. Your manager will support your return back to work and will explore any adjustments that you require. You cannot refuse a return back to work where support and adjustments have been offered.