Clinically vulnerable staff and learners (including individuals on the shielding list)
Following consideration by clinicians of the increased risks of transmission of the new strain of coronavirus, new guidance for individuals on the shielding list has been issued for the duration of the lockdown period. This now makes clear that:
- staff at the highest clinical risk (individuals on the shielding list) should work from home, and if they cannot do so, they should not go into work as long as the area they live or work in is under lockdown. The Chief Medical Officer issued a letter to everyone on the shielding list on 5 January to advise that your employer cannot arrange for you to work from home, then you should not attend work. If employers cannot make it possible for employees to work from home, they can use this letter (Shielding Notification), which serves a similar purpose to a fit note, as evidence that they should not go into work. A separate GP fit note is not required. The letter is valid up to 31 March to cover any times during which the person is living or working in an area under lockdown.
- this advice remains regardless of whether people have had 1 or 2 doses of the vaccination. We will update this guidance if advice changes as evidence becomes available about the impact of the vaccination.
- if the area where someone on the shielding list is living or working in goes back down to Level 4, they are advised to continue to follow the advice about going to work in level 4 areas, regardless of whether they have had 1 or 2 doses of the vaccination. This advice is that people on the shielding list can go into work if it is Covid-safe to do so. It is the employer’s responsibility to make the workplace and duties safe and employees also have a responsibility to comply with safe working practices.
- the letter sent by the Chief Medical Officer on 21 December can be used as evidence not to go into work if the workplace and duties can’t be made Covid-safe or if it is not possible to travel to work in a Covid-safe way (the current advice at level 4 is not to use public transport), during the times the area where they live or work is at Level 4. This letter covers any times during which the area is at level 4 up to 31 March. Again, we will update this guidance if advice changes as we learn more about the impact of the vaccination.
- children and young people at the highest clinical risk (individuals on the shielding list) have also been advised by the Chief Medical Officer not to attend school, college or regulated childcare services such as nurseries in person in level 4 areas or during lockdown. We will update this guidance if this advice changes. However, parents can consult with their child’s secondary care (hospital) clinical team who may advise that an individualised risk assessment could be undertaken with the school, college or nursery and arrangements put in place which may allow your child to continue to attend when establishments re-open.
- arrangements for learning from home will be put in place for children and young people who cannot attend school or college in person due to shielding requirements. The local education service will provide advice on the support available for children who are being asked not to attend school, college or childcare under additional protective measures
This lockdown advice does not change the existing Level 4 advice, which may replace this exceptional advice following any return to school after lockdown ends.
The arrangements for all other clinically vulnerable children, young people and school staff as set out in the reducing risks in schools guidance should be followed. This includes the baseline advice (which applies as standard throughout all levels) and the enhanced protections at Levels 3 and 4. This guidance makes clear that individual risk assessments should be in place for clinically vulnerable staff. Local authorities should ensure that clinical advice is taken fully into account when updating these individual risk assessments and agreeing appropriate mitigations with employees. Updated guidance for pregnant employees is now available and should be followed (note that staff who are both pregnant and on the shielding list should follow the guidance for staff at the highest clinical risk above).
Read the information on shielding, including who would be considered within the highest risk group. Where concerns exist, guidance for people with underlying health conditions has been prepared and will continue to be updated. School staff who have underlying health conditions will wish to be aware of this advice in order to inform discussions with their employer, trade union and/or healthcare team in line with the current guidance on reducing risks in schools.