These are complex questions but I hope this article helps you to get it right.
Clinically Extremely Vulnerable: This is a small group of people who have been told by their GP or Public Health that they should shield. You will know who they are because you will probably have made adjustments for them in the workplace. People who have been designated extremely vulnerable will have one or more of the following conditions:-
- They have had a solid organ transplant, eg kidney;
- They are currently undergoing chemotherapy;
- They are currently undergoing radical radiotherapy;
- They have a blood cancer, eg leukaemia;
- They have cystic fibrosis, severe asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- They are an adult with Downs syndrome;
- They have chronic kidney disease and/or are undergoing dialysis;
- They are a pregnant woman with heart disease.
If possible these people should work from home. If that is not possible or practical they should be furloughed. If neither of these are possible they should be paid Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). Remember that SSP starts on Day 1 for this group of people and not Day 4 as is the norm.
Clinically Vulnerable: These people will not have been contacted by their GP or Public Health and many are self diagnosed as clinically vulnerable. There is no published guidance for this group (at the moment) and it is assumed they will attend work in the normal way because you have put in place all the C-19 precautions as defined by the Health & Safety Executive.
If possible they should work from home or be furloughed. If neither is possible or practical you should anticipate them coming to work.
There may be some people who just refuse to come to work and this is a difficult dilemma. Of course, you should try the soft approach by persuading them that your workplace is safe. They could take annual leave. They could agree to take unpaid leave, but if you go down this route please make sure you get their agreement in writing.
You may be tempted to dismiss but I would strongly recommend that you do not take this course of action. The Employment Rights Act 1996 s44 states that a dismissal is automatically unfair if an employee suffers detriment because they took appropriate steps because they believed there was a “serious and imminent danger”. Dismissal is definitely a detriment! And only time will tell if the Courts believe that the potential for contracting C-19 represents a “serious and imminent danger”. Some of that will depend on how well you have implemented the HSE C-19 safety guidance – take photographs as the Employment Tribunals are currently listing cases for mid 2022 by which time (hopefully) you will have been able to dismantle screens etc. In my opinion dismissal is a high risk option but nevertheless, it is an option open to you.
Self Isolation: Employees self isolating as a result of being told to do so by Track & Trace are entitled to SSP from Day 1. Local Councils are able to provide £500 to anyone self isolating as a result of being told to do so by Track & Trace, if they are on a low income and cannot work from home.
Employees who live with someone who is self isolating but who does not have C-19 symptoms do not need to self isolate.
Child Sent Home From School: If a child is sent home from school because someone in their ‘bubble’ has tested positive but the child his/her self does not have symptoms then this is a complicated scenario. The child needs to self isolate but their parents/guardians do not need to self isolate and therefore SSP does not apply. But, of course, a child under the age of 12 cannot be left at home alone.
Parents could take statutory time off for dependents but that is unpaid. Working from home or furlough are the obvious options, as is taking annual leave.
If the parent decides to attend work but the employer would prefer that they did not, then the employee could be suspended on health & safety grounds and the employer would then have to pay the full salary.
You can contact me on 07766 167160 or through my website www.bdroper-hr.co.uk