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Shielding Employees: Looking Ahead

From 1st August 2020 the public health guidance in England changes so that employees who are shielding and are unable to work from home can return to work (if the employer is permitted to operate) as long as their workplace is COVID-19 secure.

Some employers may be thinking about asking such employees to return to work, if this is the case, they need to handle the situation very carefully, consider their position and plan ahead. Employers should take a reasonable and supportive approach as well as considering an employee’s individual situation. Depending on the circumstances, adjustments and other options such as continued furlough may need to be considered.

It’s important for employers to take care when managing employees who have been shielding as those with underlying health conditions are likely to be considered to be disabled under the Equality Act and as such have protection from unlawful discrimination. In addition, employers have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees where required. It should also be borne in mind that all employees have protection from being dismissed or being subjected to a detriment if they refuse to attend work because of a reasonable belief that there is an imminent danger to their health and safety or because they have raised health and safety issues. Employers also need to be careful regarding constructive unfair dismissal.

As a potential return to work of an employee who has been shielding is likely to be a difficult area for employers, they should seek advice on the facts of their situation from Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd.