HR expert Kate Palmer from Peninsula advises on what employers should do as shielding guidance is relaxed tomorrow.
From tomorrow vulnerable people in England will no longer have to shield. At least 3.7million clinically extremely vulnerable people in England have been told to stay at home to avoid getting Covid. Those unable to work due to shielding have been able to claim Statutory Sick Pay or employment and support allowance. From 1st April, they are still advised to social distance and take other Covid precautions and to work from home where possible. Wales is also relaxing shielding from 1st April. Kate Palmer, HR Advice Director at Peninsula advises employers on how they should respond.
It is important to remember that shielding staff may have been away from the workplace for some time and, as a result, may be feeling anxious about their return. Therefore, they must be clearly informed of all measures taken to keep them safe, alongside any additional measures considered for their circumstances. If they raise any issues, these should be carefully listened to and considered. Remember that what works for one employee may not work for all of them, and issues may not arise until they have been back at work for several weeks.
The appointment of a communications coordinator could help manage the resulting impact of this as it assures staff that the business is dedicated to making sure they are well-considered. This could also help ensure that the business is aware of any problems with shielded employees who have been contacted about returning to work. This, too, will facilitate informed decision-making on the employer’s part and gives affected employees a point of contact for any return-to-work queries.
Although we do have more reasons to be hopeful, the virus is set to remain a present danger for some time. Employers must be mindful of this when managing staff and be prepared to provide further support if necessary. One such option is the use of an Employee Assistance Programme, through which a third-party can provide counselling services to staff to help them with their mental health on behalf of an employer.