The Government has recently released details of its plans for people currently shielding from coronavirus in England.
On Monday, July 6, those shielding can gather with up to six people outdoors, and form a support bubble with another household. Further changes come into effect on August 1, when those who are shielding and unable to work from home can return to work as long as certain protective measures are in place. Statutory Sick Pay entitlement for shielding due to coronavirus will end at the same time.
Staff may feel anxious about returning to work once the guidance has eased. Employers should comply with guidance to make the workplace 'Covid secure' before shielding employees return. However, this may not be enough to allay the concerns of shielding staff, so communication between employer and employee will be key to agreeing return to work arrangements.
Employers should speak with concerned staff to understand what specific measures have been put in place to secure the workplace, and to discuss any further personal requirements. Where working from home is a possibility, it remains the case that staff should be permitted to work from home even after August 1.
Employers should now take proactive steps to communicate with shielding staff. Where staff feel uncomfortable about returning to work even once protective measures and adjustments have been explained, employers should adopt a reasonable and supportive approach.
It may be appropriate to agree a period of unpaid leave if staff do not wish to return to work, although care should be taken not to position such leave as a sanction or penalty for non-attendance. The new flexible furlough scheme remains an option between July 1 and 31 October 31.
Shielding rights for employees end on August 31 but employers still need to be mindful of any health and safety concerns or disability health related issues that arise.
- Michael Delaney is a partner at award-winning law firm VWV, which has offices in Clarendon Road, Watford