A return to shielding: new Clinically Extremely Vulnerable guidance

In spite of the prime minister Boris Johnson recently stating that he would not ask people to shield in the same way again during this lockdown, the government has revised their guidance on shielding the day before lockdown commenced.

Who does the new guidance apply to?

The new guidance applies to those identified as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) who are at very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19. To qualify as CEV the employee will need to have one of the conditions set out in the guidance or to have received a letter from their clinician or GP which added them to the Shielded Patient List.

What does the guidance say CEV employees should do with regard to work?

The guidance is now unequivocal (in a way that it was not previously), that CEV employees should work from home where possible. If it is not possible to work from home they should not attend work during the lockdown.

What should I pay a CEV employee who cannot work from home during the lockdown period?

Ideally furlough, provided that they qualify (having been on a payroll RTI submission before 30 October 2020). Otherwise, they may be entitled to sick pay under your company scheme (depending on the terms) and/or they will be entitled to SSP.

What if a clinically extremely vulnerable employee says they want to continue to work?

This would be against government guidance, could lead to serious illness or death of your CEV employee, could be considered a failure to meet your health and safety obligations to employees and in the most extreme circumstances could invalidate your insurance, so it is not advised.  

If a CEV employee is really keen to remain in work, perhaps citing mental health as a competing concern, we would recommend that you obtain advice from their treating clinician or GP and only allow them to remain in the workplace during lockdown if medical advice supports the contention that this is in the best interests of their health.

What about employees who live with those who are CEV?

The guidance is clear that you can still attend work if you live with someone who is CEV and are unable to work from home. The guidance recommends in-home measures to limit risk of transmission.

What about other employees who are more at risk but not CEV?

The government's general guidance on the lockdown describes two groups as more at risk from coronavirus: those aged over 60; and those who are clinically vulnerable (CV) as they are:

  • aged 70 or over (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (that is, anyone instructed to get a flu jab each year on medical grounds):
    • chronic (long-term) mild to moderate respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
    • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
    • chronic kidney disease
    • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
    • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy
    • diabetes
    • a weakened immune system as the result of certain conditions or medicines they are taking (such as steroid tablets)
    • being seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above)
  • pregnant

This guidance does not suggest that those who are more at risk should not attend work but recommends that they should instead be careful to follow the rules, minimise contact with others, wash their hands carefully and more frequently and maintain thorough cleaning of their workspace.

If you have employees who are more at risk but not CEV therefore you should consider:

  • Whether they can work from home.
  • If they cannot work from home:
    • Whether you have made your workplace as COVID secure as possible.
    • Whether you can give them a designated, different, and more COVID-secure workstation/office.
    • Whether to furlough them (if they agree).

Key Contacts