The new Covid-19 risk prediction model will see an additional 1.7 million people being recommended to follow shielding guidance until at least 31 March 2021. Notifications advising them to shield will be landing from this week. So what will this mean for employers? What about employees who want to continue to work despite the assessment of the risk they face?

The biggest impact could be on social care employers many of whom already have a number of clinically extremely vulnerable staff who are unable to work. Having read the latest guidance the key points to highlight are as follows:

  • Employers should ask their workforce to inform them if they receive a notification that they should shield so the implications can be discussed.
  • Those who are advised to shield should not attend work but they can be furloughed. Many people who are already shielding have been placed on furlough. Employers need to be mindful of any particular discrimination risks depending on the individual's particular circumstances but in many cases furlough will be the best option for both the employer and employee.
  • The shielding advice is not mandatory. It is also possible that employees may disagree with the risk assessment. Those employees can discuss that with a clinician and ask to be removed from the shielding list.
  • It also appears that individuals can choose to be removed from the list if they wish regardless of the medical view.
  • If an employee who has been notified wants to continue to work the employer should carry out a risk assessment to assess whether the person can continue to work in the same role or if there is an alternative role that can be carried out. If they are contemplating the employee continuing to attend a workplace they should also discuss the risk assessment with their insurers. In light of the new risk prediction model I consider employers should not allow such staff to continue to attend a workplace until they have confirmation from a clinician that the employee can be removed from the shielding list.  
  • Where someone has removed themselves from the list contrary to medical advice in the vast majority of cases they should not be allowed to attend the workplace. An employee cannot sign a disclaimer agreeing that the employer won't be responsible for their health and safety. 
  • Even once someone who is shielding has had both vaccination doses it is clear that they should not attend work whilst the shielding guidance remains in place.

With approximately 800,000 people likely to be employees receiving shielding notifications for the first time it will be another busy few weeks for HR teams and our team can provide any support needed to navigate these issues.