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Shielding- Explaining the Government’s latest advice

Employees that are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable have been sent a letter from Public Health England advising them that from the 1st April, they are no longer required to shield and should return to work, where they can’t work from home.

This is great news for many that have shut themselves away for almost a year, though is likely to come with apprehension and anxiety as Coronavirus hasn’t gone away entirely and it is understandable that many people will still be worried.

From the 1st April, those Shielding will not be entitled to SSP if off work due to shielding. You can read the letter in full here.

What does the Practice need to do?

Employers have a duty of care to their employees. All practices have been made as Covid-safe as possible, however is there anything else that can be done to protect your extremely vulnerable employees?

It might be worth making a phone call to the employee to discuss their return, listen to any concerns they have and see whether there is a way that the practice can help support them or alleviate their worries.

It may have been a while now since you last did your Coronavirus risk assessment for your employees. It might be a good time to update and redo the risk assessment, to make sure no standards have slipped and that nothing has changed, or can be done better.

What if the Employee still refuses to come to work?

As mentioned above, it is understandable that some employees are likely to be nervous about returning to work and it will not be possible for every extremely clinically vulnerable employee to work from home (though of course if this is possible it is still the best option).

We have written a previous article that discusses the legal aspects around employees refusing to return to work, but in short, if employees do not feel safe to come in to work, then under the Health and Safety at Work Act they cannot be forced to come in to work. Whether they are entitled to being paid or not is a different question that cannot be fully answered until the law is made clear (and this isn’t likely to be for at least a year).

However, the option recommended by most employment lawyers currently is that employees are not likely to be entitled to pay and as such, the best option is to allocate it as Unpaid Leave.

If you would like any further support, FPM Subscribers can email hrhelp@firstpracticemanagement.co.uk for personal 121 support from our HR Specialist


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