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As you are probably aware clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) employees have been advised to shield until the 31st March 2021. This means many are working from home, on sickness absence receiving SSP, or are furloughed by their employers. With the 31st March fast approaching we thought it would be useful to explore what an employer needs to do in order to transition their shielding employees back to work on 1st April 2021.

The Government has written to all those who are CEV and those who have been separately told to shield by Department of Health & Social Care. Here’s a copy of the letter.

So what can you do regarding your shielding employees who are told they can return on 1st April.

  1. Talk to them now, don’t wait till the 31st March, book a telephone welfare meeting and check in on them. How do they feel about what they have been told by the Department of Health & Social Care? Can you address any concerns.
  2. Can they continue to work from home? If they have been on SSP or furlough, do you now have work they can do from home?
  3. You don’t have to agree to have them back on that date. If you do not have sufficient work for them to do due to the pandemic, you could ask them to remain furloughed. The employee themselves may be happy to remain furloughed as they believe they do not wish to resume work as yet. If that’s the case, you won’t have an issue.
  4. The employee themselves may decide they do not wish to return to work on 1st April and may be signed off by the GP as unfit for work. They will need a Statement of Fitness for Work after 7 days. Again we would recommend you undertake welfare meetings, potentially over Zoom to understand what is causing them to be signed off and what support they may need from you to assist them to come back to work.
  5. They may need to take holiday that they have not taken, the employee may request to take holiday or you may be able to give them notice to take holiday, subject to the usual rules.

If they are coming back…

  1. You should plan a back to work interview and phased return. Anyone who has been absent from work for sometime may need a phased return to get them back to speed. It may be best for the employee to be flexibly furloughed for the hours they do not work in their first few weeks back. As with all phased returns make sure it is confirmed in writing, when it starts, how long it will last and the impact on pay.
  2. When they return to work you may wish to review your COVID risk assessments with them to ensure that you can do anything to reduce the risk to their health and safety. Consider the latest guidance on Actions for Early Years and Childcare providers and the 9 System of Controls
  3. You will want to make sure that any changes to your policies and procedures put in place whilst they have been shielding are explained to them and that they have an opportunity to ask any questions.
  4. Finally just as you reboarded your team after the first lockdown in June 2020 you need to consider how you reboard those who have been absent for a prolonged period of time due to their CEV status. Think updating on staff changes, new children, new parents etc.
  5. They may need support, if you have an Employee Assistance Programme, (EAP) this may be able to support the employee. If you would like a proposal for EAP please let us know on 01527 909436.

In Conclusion

We think it probable that some shielding employees will not feel safe to return despite what the Department of Health and Social Care have written to them. If you receive a letter from an employee setting out their rights under S.44 and S.100 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 please do seek assistance from your HR Consultant.

If we can be of any assistance with any aspect of managing your employees during the pandemic, please let us know.