Shielding ends at midnight, but the anxieties of a year of shielding won’t end that quickly
Today, 31st March, is the last day that UK workers who are ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’ will be asked to ‘shield.’
Shielding has been in place for more than a year now, with those shielding being advised to avoid social contact. For those without access to private gardens, a strict adherence to shielding guidelines will have resulted in a lonely existence for a long period of time, and many employers will have furloughed those shielding, or allowed them to work at home if that was possible.
The general advice remains that those with extreme clinical vulnerabilities who have been advised by the NHS to shield should continue to limit contact after 31st March if they can.
Can previously shielding employees be instructed to return to the workplace from 1st April?
Employers should assess each case on its particular facts before deciding to order a return to the workplace. It will be important to consider all the risk factors before ordering a return. Is the workspace suitable for someone with extra vulnerabilities to the virus? Will the employee have to use public transport to get to work? Have they had the vaccine, and when? Is continuing to work at home still an option? What do we know about their clinical vulnerability?
Talk to your employee
Consideration of risk factors are important, but nothing is more important than having proper dialogue with the employee, who may well be extremely anxious of returning to ‘normality,’ having been locked away, and told to avoid contact with anyone outside of their household, for many months. None of us at myHRdept profess to be clinical psychologists, but it doesn’t take medical training to be able to conclude that there will be some significant anxiety amongst the previously shielding community. As employers get their businesses back on track, with all of the challenges that will present, they should be careful not to let themselves be insensitive to the anxieties of a not insignificant group of people, whose challenges during lockdown have been significantly greater than most. It would be extremely naïve to expect those anxieties to disappear at midnight tonight.
If you’re thinking of outsourcing your HR or employment law needs, why not contact myHRdept? Call us on 01628 820515 to discuss your requirements or contact us and we’ll call you back.