On 17 March, the Government wrote to those who are categorised as clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 to advise them that from 1 April 2021 they no longer needed to shield. The Government has confirmed that entitlement to receive Statutory Sick Pay or Employment Support Allowance on the basis of shielding will also end on that date.
Despite this, the letter says that these individuals may still be eligible for the furlough scheme. There is no further information on what the new eligibility criteria could be.
To date, businesses have been able to use the furlough scheme for staff who could not work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic but who were advised not to attend their workplace as they were in the shielding category. We are currently tracking the Government website to see if the guidance on the furlough scheme is updated following this announcement.
Employers should be mindful that impacted staff could have been shielding for almost a year and may feel anxious about returning to work. All workplaces must comply with COVID-19 workplace guidance and employers should share information about the measures they have taken to protect staff to reassure them about returning to the workplace. It is also relevant that those who were advised to shield should have received their first vaccine dose by 15 February, reducing the risk of such employees contracting COVID-19 whether in the workplace or elsewhere. This risk will be reduced further shortly after they have received their second vaccine dose.
We will update you on any changes to the furlough guidance following this announcement.
Please get in touch with our team for advice on making your workplace compliant with COVID-19 secure or the furlough scheme.
For more information read our blog on: Mandatory workplace testing: What employers need to know, or get in touch with our team for advice on making your workplace Covid secure.