Coronavirus: shielding and vulnerable people

Employers must be particularly careful and take extra steps for anyone in their workforce who is vulnerable to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Some people have a higher chance of getting severely ill if they catch coronavirus. These people may be at:

  • high risk ('clinically extremely vulnerable')

  • moderate risk ('clinically vulnerable')

People at high risk will have been advised to take extra cautionary measures to protect themselves ('shield') during the pandemic.

Shielding

If someone who needs to shield cannot work from home, the employer should talk to the person about:

  • taking up an alternative role that's suitable and safe to do from home
  • not returning to work until it's safe to do so

If they cannot work, the employer may be able to put the person on furlough (temporary leave).

Otherwise, they may be entitled to one of the following:

Shielding rules in England

From 5 January 2021, everyone should follow national lockdown rules.

People at high risk should not go to work, school, college or university. They should work from home where possible.

The government will contact people who need to shield.

For more guidance, see:

Shielding rules in Scotland

People at high risk should continue to work from home where possible. 

If they cannot work from home and the area where they live or work is in lockdown, they should not go to work. 

They can show their employer the 'shielding notification' letter they’ll receive from the Chief Medical Officer, which can act as a sick note ('fit note').

For more information see:

Shielding rules in Wales

People at high risk should not go to work or school. They should work from home where possible. 

This is particularly important if someone’s work puts them in regular contact with other people or if they share a poorly ventilated workspace with others.

They can show their employer the 'shielding notification' letter they’ll receive from the Chief Medical Officer, which can act as a sick note ('fit note').

For more information see:

If an employee lives with someone who's shielding

The government's advice is that employees and workers who live with people who are shielding should work from home if they can.

If they cannot work from home, they should go into work.

They should speak to their employer if they have any concerns.

Returning to the workplace after shielding

Employees and workers who are no longer shielding may be able to return to the workplace if it's safe.

Anyone who's been shielding should talk to their employer as soon as possible about plans to help them return.

If they can continue to work from home, the employer should support this.

If working from home is not possible, options might include:

  • the employer putting extra measures in place to keep the person safe in the workplace
  • the person taking up an alternative role
  • temporarily changing the person's working patterns

If it's not possible for the person to return to work safely, options may include being put on furlough.

Find out more about returning to the workplace safely during coronavirus.

If a doctor says someone should stay at home

A doctor may advise an employee or worker to stay at home. They should get a letter from the doctor explaining they're not fit to return to the workplace. They should share this with their employer.

The employer should talk with the person to understand the issue and see how they can support them.

If someone does not think it's safe to return to the workplace

It’s important to talk to their employer if someone feels:

  • they should not be going back to work because they’re at higher risk
  • their workplace is not safe enough to return to

They can also talk to their trade union or health and safety representative, if they have one.

Find out how to raise a problem at work.

Unfair treatment and dismissal

By law, employees and workers are protected against unfair treatment and dismissal if it's because of:

  • pregnancy
  • age
  • a health condition that's considered a disability under the Equality Act

It does not matter how long they've worked for the employer.

This means an employer must not:

  • unreasonably try to pressure someone to go to work
  • unreasonably discipline someone for not going to work

Find out about dealing with a problem at work.

Shielding
Last reviewed