On the 17th March the government clarified that shielding for clinically extremely vulnerable people will end in England from 1 April 2021.
If you are an employer with a shielding employee, take steps now to consider the right approach to enable a smooth transition back to work where possible or alternative options to an immediate return to work if necessary. Considerations include prioritisation of homeworking, use of furlough where feasible, statutory sick pay where applicable and paid holiday or unpaid leave.
A good conversation is always a good start – understand your employee’s concerns and ideas and work together to put workable solutions in place.
Where a return to the workplace is necessary and unavoidable, ensure that your COVID secure workplace risk assessments are up to date and take account of any reasonable adjustments that may be necessary for your clinically extremely vulnerable employee. Discuss such adjustments and mitigating measures with the employee to reassure them and to create new ideas that can help support the safest working environment possible.
If you have multiple employees shielding you may need to take a different approach for each employee taking into consideration their individual circumstances (health and home), their role and their working patterns.
A recent survey of 6,000 people conducted by Citizen’s Advice Bureau has shown that those who are shielding, or have shielded in the past, are twice as likely to be made redundant than any other employee. Redundancy situations occur where the need for a particular role has ceased or diminished, not due to an employee being unable to perform their role due to a need to shield. Employers are open to claims of unfair dismissal from their shielding employees if they do not follow a fair procedure for true redundancy situations.
Employers should also be aware that clinically extremely vulnerable people may also be classed as being disabled under the Equality Act 2010 thus potentially giving rise to additional claims of disability discrimination if a fair procedure is not followed.