Public Health England has confirmed an end to shielding from 1 April 2021.
In new guidance that has just been issued, it states that, with Covid cases falling nationally and 22 million people benefiting from the first dose of a vaccine, those defined as clinically extremely vulnerable will no longer be advised to shield.
They should instead follow the same regulations that are in place for everyone else.
When it comes to work, that means working from home where possible and, if this isn’t possible, going back into the workplace.
In practical terms people who were previously shielding will no longer be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay or Employment and Support Allowance on the basis of needing to shield (they may still be eligible on other grounds, for example, being sick or incapable of work due to other health reasons).
Employers do, of course, still have an obligation to make workplaces Covid-safe with social distancing measures in place and a system of risk management.
It is highly likely, however, that the end of shielding will re-open the debate about health and safety detriment where people don’t feel safe returning to work. If workers choose to take reasonable action believing that attending work would put them in serious danger, they must not suffer any detriment as a result, as doing so could give rise to a tribunal claim.
However, employers are likely to fall back on the fact that the government has deemed it safe for everyone to go back to work and, therefore, with proper safety measures in place, the risk of ‘serious danger’ to any worker can be mitigated.
Employers may need to reassure workers who have been out of the workplace for a considerable amount of time that steps have been taken to prioritise their safety, for example by introducing Covid policies and training.
If you are an employer who needs legal advice about employees returning to work, call us on 01782 205000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are an employee who needs advice about your situation, we offer a one-hour fixed fee appointment with an employment solicitor for £100+vat.