On 22 June 2020, the government set out a series of steps for further relaxing shielding guidance which will come into effect 1 August 2020 in England and Scotland and 16 August in Wales.
- The guidance now states that from 1 August 2020, shielding employees can return to work if they cannot work from home
- Companies need to ensure that have carried out the appropriate Covid-19 risk assessments and measures put in place to ensure that those who are vulnerable are kept safe at work where working from home is not possible.
- Statutory sick pay (SSP) will no longer be available to those individuals who have previously been told to shield and means that claims can no longer be made under the Coronavirus SSP Rebate Scheme
- The guidance remains advisory. More detailed will be published in due course..
- The shielding programme will be paused on 31 July 2020, unless government see a spike in cases.
- Employees will still be entitled to SSP if they become ill or they need to self-isolating.
The change in guidance is still open to interpretation and could potentially put shielding employees and their employers in a predicament. Some shielding individuals may not feel safe enough to return to the workplace on 1 August 2020 and some ailments on the vulnerable persons’ list may be considered a disability and individuals with these disabilities are protected by law if they refuse to work where there is a likely threat to their health. Organisations need to tread carefully to avoid any claims of discrimination.
Employers need to start speaking to those vulnerable employees who are shielding now to:
- reassure staff that the workplace is Covid-19 secure
- take the time to listen to concerns and act accordingly, in a manner that benefits both the employee and the organisation
- allow shielding employees, who do not yet feel comfortable returning to work, to work from home where possible
- publish risk assessments online that show measures that the organisation is taking to prevent a coronavirus spread
- remind staff that the NHS Test and Trace system is in place to ensure that coronavirus activity is monitored locally, regionally, and nationally
If you have any queries regarding the new shielding guidance or need support with those sensitive employee conversations, then why not give us a call on 0121 445 6178 for an initial chat to discuss the practical support we can provide to you to help your business plan for the future and a safe return to the ‘new normal’.Re