Those employees who have been ‘shielding’ from COVID-19 can return to work from the 1st of August in England.
This was announced by Matt Hancock, Health Secretary, who stated that ‘shielding’ employees can return to their workplace from the start of August. Vulnerable people who have been ‘shielding’, are those who suffer from an ongoing medical condition and were advised to stay at home in order to minimise the chances of catching the virus.
If workers cannot remote work and social distancing measures have been implemented, they can return to the office. Following this, employees will no longer be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) in reference to COVID-19.
Roughly 2.2 million people have been asked to ‘shield’ from the rest of the public by the Government since the 21st of March.
Vulnerable people are even allowed to meet in groups of up to six people from 6th July.
This announcement has been met with some criticism though from various charities.
Gemma Peters, chief executive of Blood Cancer UK, said:
This announcement risks taking away people’s freedom not to go to work or to the supermarket if they do not feel it’s safe to do so.
The Government needs to think again and continue to support those most vulnerable to becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus, or we could see people being forced to choose between their financial security and their health.
Sue Farrington, chair of the Rare Autoimmune Rheumatic Disease Alliance, said:
While an end to shielding is welcome, people are understandably wary and need to know that their concerns aren’t being brushed aside.
We’re particularly concerned about people needing to return to work if their workplace is deemed ‘Covid-safe’. Over the last few months people have told us how the guidance for employers is already too open to interpretation. We really need to see specific guidance on how this will be enforced, how people will be protected, and how any issues will be addressed.
Employers will need to inspire confidence in their ‘shielding’ staff that their workspace is now COVID-19 friendly if they wish for them to return.
Paul Holcroft, Associate Director at employment law consultancy, Croner said:
Those who have been shielding may return to work from 1 August 2020 as long as the workplace is ‘COVID secure’ and it will be for employers to demonstrate that this is the case. It is therefore 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.