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Supporting Clinically Extremely Vulnerable Staff to Return to the Workplace

on Friday, 01 October 2021.

As the shielding programme in England is brought to an end, how should you manage the return of employees who have been previously shielding?

Shielding Programme Ends 

The Government announced on 20 September 2021 that the shielding programme for those who were considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) in England has now ended. This follows the pausing of shielding guidance since April this year.

The Government's updated guidance confirms that individuals who were previously classed as CEV will no longer be advised to shield and should continue to follow the same guidance as the rest of the population.

In addition, the guidance recommends that CEV individuals may, alongside advice from their health specialist, wish to take additional precautions including:

  • considering whether the people they are meeting have been vaccinated and waiting 14 days after the second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before being in close contact with others
  • continuing to practice social distancing
  • avoiding crowded spaces
  • asking visitors to take lateral flow tests and wear face masks

Managing the Return of CEV Employees

Now that many organisations are encouraging employees to return to the workplace, it is likely that those employees previously deemed to be CEV will have mixed feelings about whether they want to, or are ready to return to the workplace. Employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of employees in so far as is reasonably practicable. Therefore, before employers consider bringing CEV staff back into the office, they should consult with staff to provide them with an opportunity to raise any concerns they may have.

Employers should consider carrying out a risk assessment for each CEV employee to determine the potential risks which would particularly affect them and consider whether any adjustments can be made which would address those concerns.

Risk assessments should take account of the nature of the workplace, the employee's role, their specific condition and concerns, and any adjustments required. Employers may wish to seek advice from occupational health, or other specialist medical practitioner on suitable adjustments, particularly where an employee is disabled. 

Supporting Staff Who Continue to Shield

The ending of the shielding programme does not necessarily mean that it is appropriate to require CEV employees to return to the workplace. Many CEV employees may feel nervous about returning and want to continue to work from home, especially if the workplace is particularly risky.

The ACAS guidance Working Safely During Coronavirus advises that employers should support CEV staff continuing to work from home. However, if it is not possible for CEV employees to work from home then employers should consider what extra measures can be put in place to keep CEV staff safe.  

Both parties will need to be open and cooperate with each other to determine the best working practice for CEV employees so they can still fully perform their role while working safely. Employers should be mindful about compelling CEV staff to return to the workplace which could give rise to potential discrimination claims.

If you require further advice on managing CEV employees return to the work place, please contact Ellie Boyd in our Employment Law team on 020 7665 0940, or complete the form below.

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