More employees in England advised to shield

The government has announced an expansion to the shielding list in England. Nearly 2 million additional people will be asked to shield until at least 31 March 2021.

This is the result of a new (more sophisticated) modelling tool being created for, and used by, the NHS to identify those most at risk based on a combination of personal and health factors (and not just single conditions as was previously the case).

Those added to the shielding list who have not already been vaccinated will be prioritised.

What does this mean for me as an employer?

You might see more employees receiving letters from their GP advising them that they are now advised to shield (until 31 March 2021) where they were not previously.

Our understanding is that patients who have been identified as potentially high risk through this tool have been placed directly onto the Shielded Patient List for GPs to review and, presumably, quickly produce the letters of confirmation to patients who are now to be asked to shield because they are deemed at higher risk of serious illness.

It will also be possible for GPs to continue to review individual patients using the same model as this new tool (meaning some employees might find they are added to the Shielded Patient List a little later than the initial additional cohort). 

What are my options for managing employees now on the shielding list?

An employee who has been advised to shield is "strongly advised" by the government to stay at home and not to attend work for the current period of restrictions.

You should deal with any employees who produce evidence that they have been newly added to the Shielded Patient List in the same way as other employees that are already shielding. That is, where possible, giving them work to do from home and, where home working is not possible, you can instead:

  • choose, where eligible and with the employee's agreement, to place a shielding employee onto furlough (and pay them accordingly); or
  • pay them Statutory Sick Pay.

Shielding employees have protection from detriment or dismissal under various potential grounds – so do seek advice if you think one of the above options is not possible for you.

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