Shielding was introduced at the start of the first lockdown in March 2020 to help protect the most vulnerable people from catching coronavirus. Shielding guidance is in place during England’s present third lockdown. Almost two million more people can expect to receive a letter in the post over the coming weeks advising them to shield, bringing the total number of people shielding to almost four million.
Who has to shield?
People who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable have been told to shield, which means people should stay at home as much as possible.
Those asked to shield include people with health conditions, such as severe respiratory conditions, or people taking immunosuppression drugs.
People told to shield should keep contact with people outside their household to a minimum and avoid busy areas.
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The Government website explains an employer may be able to furlough their employee if they have to shield and cannot work from home.
The website states: “If you cannot make alternative arrangements, your employer may be able to furlough you under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has been extended until the end of April 2021.
“You should have a conversation with your employer about whether this is possible.”
Government benefits or Statutory Sick Pay may also be an option for people who cannot work due to shielding.
The website adds: “As you are being advised not to attend work, you may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
“The formal shielding letter you receive will act as evidence for your employer and the Department for Work and Pensions that you are advised to shield and may be eligible for SSP or ESA.
“Members of the household who are not clinically extremely vulnerable should continue to attend work if they are unable to work from home, in line with the wider rules set out in the national lockdown guidance.”
Kate Palmer, HR Advice Director at Peninsula, said: “While many individuals included in this list are likely not to be of working age, some companies will see an increased number of staff now being advised to shield and prepare for this.
“Currently, individuals who are shielding are being advised not to go into their workplace even if they cannot work from home.
“However, they can be furloughed if this is the case and are also entitled to receive statutory sick pay if eligible.
“Therefore, employers based in England must be prepared to have additional conversations with any member of staff that now falls into this category and respond accordingly. It is currently unclear how long this advice to shield will last.”