Shielding is Ending – What Does This Mean?

By Matthew Reymes Cole
23 Jul 2020

A lot of companies in the UK will have staff who are ‘shielding’. This could be due to a medical condition, disability, or their proximity to a vulnerable person. Lockdown meant these people were not required to come to work. Now that is changing.

Shielding for employees in England and Scotland will end on 1st August. It will end on 17th August for staff working in Wales.

This means that those who received letters asking them to stay in their homes will be allowed to return to the workplace.

An end to shielding

What does this mean for your company?

Firstly, staff who have previously shielded will no longer be entitled to receive statutory sick pay (SSP). Any payment they receive if they continue to be away from the office will therefore be entirely down to you. For example, you can still pay them contractual sick pay, if you wish.

It also means that you can now, essentially, ask all your staff to return to the workplace. Of course, this is provided your workplace is safe for them to do so. You still need to keep in mind that workplaces and spaces need to follow the one-metre-plus social distancing rule.

From 1 August, government guidance is changing to encourage employers to get staff back to work. This means you don’t need to let staff continue to work from home if you don’t want to. However, again, you must make sure that your workplace is COVID-secure. Measures should also be put into place to ensure that those who are vulnerable are kept safe at work if working from home is not possible.

How can I respond to this?

Guidance for organisations on dealing with shielding employees is fairly open to interpretation. As a result, you may find yourself faced with many questions from affected staff. Some of them may still feel uncomfortable in returning to work, especially if they’ve been away for some time.

The best way to respond to this is to keep the following in mind:

  • Reassure staff that the workplace is Covid-19 secure
  • Take the time to listen to concerns and act accordingly
  • Consider a phased return, or change their hours, to limit the potential for them to be exposed to coronavirus
  • Allow them to work from home if possible
  • Remind staff that the NHS Test and Trace system is in place. This will help ensure that coronavirus activity is monitored locally, regionally and nationally
  • Publish risk assessments online showing the measures you’re taking to prevent coronavirus spreading

Some ailments on the vulnerable persons’ list may be considered a disability. Individuals with these disabilities are protected by law if they refuse to work where there is a likely threat to their health. Tread lightly on the subject to avoid claims of discrimination.

Expert support

If you need assistance with the return to work process, speak to a Croner expert today on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Matthew Reymes-Cole

Matt joined Croner in 2007 as an employment law consultant and has advised clients of all sizes on all aspects of employment law. He has worked within management positions since 2017 and currently oversees a team within the litigation department, whilst continuing to support a number of clients directly.