The Trades Union Congress (TUC) have argued that employers must furlough new shielders who cannot work from home. 

The Government announced that an extra 1.7 million people are going to be asked to shield in the UK, falling within the category of clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.

This comes in light of a new model that was created by Oxford University which factors in various pieces of information including a person’s age, underlying health conditions, ethnicity, weight and postcode and uses this to calculate whether the person would be at severe risk if they were to catch the virus.

In light of this announcement, the TUC have urged employers to furlough those forced to shield in order to protect their livelihoods and jobs.

Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary, said:

This will be a very worrying time for hundreds of thousands of working people. Some will be able to work from home – but others will not. These new shielders who can’t work from home must not lose their jobs and livelihoods overnight.

Employers must furlough new shielders who can’t work from home to keep them and their jobs safe.

Ministers must publicise the option to furlough new shielders, and should consider introducing a right to be furloughed for all those who are required to shield.

Along with this, the TUC is also calling for the implementation of a temporary right to furlough for groups who cannot work due to COVID restrictions including parents with childcare responsibilities.

Kate Palmer, HR Advice Director at Peninsula, elaborates on what this increase in people shielding will mean for employers:

While many individuals included in this list are likely not to be of working age, some companies will see an increased number of staff now being advised to shield and prepare for this.

Currently, individuals who are shielding are being advised not to go into their workplace even if they cannot work from home.

However, they can be furloughed if this is the case and are also entitled to receive statutory sick pay if eligible. Therefore, employers based in England must be prepared to have additional conversations with any member of staff that now falls into this category and respond accordingly. It is currently unclear how long this advice to shield will last.