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The Government has announced that those who are shielding in England could return to work from 1st August if they cannot work from home and provided their employer is adhering to government health and safety guidance.
The Government has announced that people in England who are clinically vulnerable due to underlying health conditions can return to work if they cannot work from home from August as long as their workplace adheres to health and safety guidance.
The Government said that from Monday 6 July people who have been shielding will be able to spend time outdoors in a group of up to six people including those outside of their household, while maintaining social distancing.
Those who are shielding and live alone or are single parents with children will also be able to create a ‘support bubble’ with one other household of any size, following the same rules already in place for the rest of the population.
The Government said it is committed to continuing with support for those shielding until the end of July to give them time to adjust to the changes.
From Saturday 1st August, the guidance will then be relaxed so clinically extremely vulnerable people will no longer be advised to shield or eligible for Statutory Sick Pay to do so, but support will remain available from NHS volunteers and local councils, says the Government, adding that people will retain their priority for supermarket delivery slots, and still be able to access help with shopping, medication, phone calls and transport to medical appointments.
While they should continue with strict social distancing measures, they will also be able to participate in more activities such as visiting shops and places of worship and those who need to work and cannot do so from home will be able to return to work as long as their workplace is “COVID secure”.
Nevertheless, it counsels that those who are vulnerable should continue to stay at home as much as possible and it is asking employers to ease the transition for their clinically extremely vulnerable employees, “ensuring that robust measures are put in place for those currently shielding to return to work when they are able to do so”.
It recommends that those worried about returning to work should speak with their employer to understand their specific policies in relation to Covid-19 and agree a plan for returning to work and adjustments that may be needed before they return.
The Government says it will be writing to all individuals on the Shielded Patient List with updated information on shielding advice and the ongoing support that will be available to them.
If the risk of a second wave or other outbreaks of Covid-19 increases, the Government says its guidance may change.
Paul Holcroft, Associate Director at employment law consultancy Croner, said: “It is vital that employers follow the available guidance on social distancing and physical adjustments to the workplace, but it will be as crucial to communicate those changes to those who have been shielding to reassure them that the workplace is as risk free as possible. Employers cannot compel someone to come to work, and those who refuse should be managed appropriately; this means considering their individual position, and making reasonable adjustments for employees who have a disability. Employees are protected in law for refusing to come to work where they have a reasonable belief that it poses a serious and imminent threat to their health, and this is why communication is so important. Employers are strongly advised to show employees that their health and safety is of paramount importance.”