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COVID-19 guidance for supporting extremely vulnerable employees at work

This guidance purely refers to work situations and you are advised to check the government website for further advice relating to social situations outside work.

We need to continue to maintain essential services, in particular to our vulnerable client groups. To do this safely and to not only protect these groups but also our employees, it's essential that managers work with employees to ensure the risk assessments for the work we're undertaking also include the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. Where there's a risk, then a risk assessment should be undertaken following existing risk assessment guidance. The risk assessment should be communicated to all employees, temporary employees and volunteers, and managers will need to ensure it is followed.

This guidance will be continually reviewed and may be updated as the situation evolves.

Clinically extremely vulnerable employees

Please refer to government guidance for a definition of clinically extremely vulnerable groups. People who are defined as clinically extremely vulnerable are at very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

From 1 April 2021 staff who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable are no longer advised to shield. The advice to all those classed as clinically extremely vulnerable remains that you should continue to work from home where possible as this reduces the chance of you being exposed to the virus. Where employees are unable to undertake their work from home (either in part or in full), it may be possible for them to return to a workplace where this workplace has been assessed and is a COVID-secure environment.

Clinically extremely vulnerable staff who cannot work from home returning to the workplace

Non-care establishments or roles

Those staff who do not work in care establishments or whose roles do not involve delivering frontline care can now be considered for a return to the workplace. It must be ensured that the workplace is COVID-19 secure and that an individual COVID-19 risk assessment has been completed and agreed with the individual. Where there are any concerns regarding the medical condition that defines the member of staff as clinically extremely vulnerable then occupational health must be consulted. The employee must be satisfied that the control measures are adequate to protect them before returning to work. Where there is a disagreement independent advice should be sought.

Care establishments and care roles

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic the councils position has been that those working in frontline care roles and more latterly care establishments in any role who are clinically extremely vulnerable, should not be at work. In January the shielding category was increased to include staff who had previously worked and they too had to shield.

This position was to protect staff who had by nature of their role to have close contact either directly with clients or with staff who had close contact with clients during a period of high community transmission.

As the levels of community transmission are reducing and there are increasing mitigating factors, such as vaccinations, the council is now in a position to consider a return to work in these areas for some clinically extremely vulnerable staff.

Clinically extremely vulnerable staff who wish to return to work in these areas will firstly need to make their manager aware of this and must consent to their medical information being shared with our occupational health team.

Once an employee agrees to this, managers must undertake a full individual risk assessment (this must include the duties the employee will undertake, where these will be undertaken and with whom, what the actual risks are and what mitigations have been put in place to control these). If you are unsure about any aspect of this you should consult with the health and safety team. This must then be shared with occupational health along with the employee's medical details. Occupational health colleagues will provide advice as to if it would be suitable for the employee to return or not, or if further detailed medical advice is required before a decision can be made.

The final decision ultimately rests with the manager of the member of staff, however, if the medical advice is that a return to work is not appropriate on medical grounds then the staff member must not be allowed to return.

If the decision and supporting medical evidence is that it is appropriate for the employee to return to the workplace then the risk assessment must be shared with the employee and they must agree that the mitigations are appropriate. Only then can the employee be allowed to return to work.

If any clinically extremely vulnerable employee is not satisfied that the mitigations are suitable or expresses significant reservations about returning to work because of their medical condition then they must not be forced to return to the workplace and independent advice should be sought.

All settings and roles

In all situations where a clinically extremely vulnerable employee has returned to work their individual risk assessment should be regularly reviewed and if necessary revised. The reviews should be undertaken on a regular basis or where there has been any significant change and agreed between the manager and employee. Elements that could be classed as significant changes will vary depending on roles but could include as examples, new national guidance, change to work routine, change of work location or work with different clients

Recording employees as clinically extremely vulnerable

The following reason codes should be used to record employees who are clinically extremely vulnerable:

  • SAP Code: SICEVW, description: COVID - CEV Working (replaces Shield Work at Home)
  • SAP Code: SICEVN, description: COVID - CEV NotWorking (replaces Shield Not Working)

Human resources advice and support contact details

Adult social care and health, email

Commissioning, communities and policy and economy transport and environment, email

Children's services, email