The government has published new shielding guidance for individuals who are clinically extremely vulnerable to a severe COVID-19 illness (CEV Individuals).

The new shielding guidance states that from 1st April 2021, CEV Individuals will no longer be advised to shield and can begin to follow national restrictions, the same as the rest of the population. The new shielding guidance and the reasons for this change can be found here.

Employers should note the following in relation to this change:

  • CEV Individuals can still be furloughed after this change if they meet the other eligibility criteria, but will no longer be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) on the basis of being advised to shield;
  • A doctor may still advise an employee to stay at home. If this happens then the employee should get a letter from the doctor explaining they are not fit to return to the workplace. The employee would then still be entitled to SSP;
  • Everyone is still advised to work from home if possible, but if people are unable to do so, employers are required by law to take steps to make workplaces COVID-19 secure. Government guidance on how to do this can be found here;
  • CEV Individuals are still advised to take extra precautions and a letter will be sent to them with the updated guidance and details of the steps they can take to reduce the risk of catching COVID. A copy of this letter can be found here.

This change will mean that a return to work should now be a possibility for many CEV Individuals. However, an employer must still consider whether it is safe for them to return to work given their clinically extremely vulnerable status. We would advise employers who have CEV Individuals who have not been working do to shielding to:

  • Follow guidance from ACAS on ‘Returning to the workplace after shielding’. The current guidance states that employers should discuss plans with CEV Individuals to help them return to work. If they can continue to work from home, they should support this. If working from home is not possible, they should consider: (a) putting extra measures in place to keep the person safe in the workplace; (b) having the person take up an alternative role; or (c) temporarily changing the person’s working patterns. If it’s not possible for the person to return to work safely, then furlough may be an option.
  • Complete individual risk assessments with CEV Individuals before the return to determine: (a) the risk of COVID-19 exposure for them and (b) identify measures to reduce any risks; and
  • Take concerns about whether a workplace is safe seriously and seek further advice from us. Employees who raise concerns about health and safety will often have additional employment rights, including protection against detrimental treatment and dismissal.

For more information on the new shielding guidance or any other employment law related matters, contact James Edmonds, a Solicitor in the Employment department by telephone on 01626 202329 or by email jamesedmonds@wbw.co.uk.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.