How long does a member of staff have to shield for?

A round-up of our FAQ's including shielding and furlough, posting daily to keep our clients and network up to date. If you have a question on furlough or need any other HR advice, please get in touch on 0844 879 7286.

How long does a member of staff have to shield for?

There are potentially two different scenarios that may have been presented to you as an employer relating to shielding, one is where the employee has received a letter from the GP or Specialist advising they are considered extremely clinically vulnerable and so should shield and the other is that you have an employee living in the same household as someone told to shield.

Where the employee is directly affected, they will have provided you with written proof that they are required to shield, and this was initially advised for 12 weeks. When lockdown continued beyond this initial 12 weeks they were advised to continue shielding until such a time as the Government advised otherwise, this is indicated to be until the end of July based on the current situation. During this period, you were able to place an employee on furlough so that they were not just receiving SSP.

Where you had employees that were living in the same household as someone shielding then this was a little more complex. The guidance stated that they did not have to shield themselves but must consider the risk / safety of the member of their household that was required to shield. If for example, they could not follow social distancing at work then the risk to their household member may have been significantly higher than an employee that could observe this guidance. They could therefore advise that they were having to shield to protect a household member until such a time as that risk may be reduced. Again, the date proposed where individuals no longer need to shield is the end of July currently.

As the shielding guidance is based on seeing the R rate stay at a low level or reduce, this may be subject to change if continued progress is not made or a second wave of the virus is seen – either nationally or at a local level and so please ensure you check the up to date Government Guidance on shielding

From 1st August the key changes for those who have advised they had to shield, as set out in the above Government guidance, are:

‘From 1 August, you’ll be advised you could go out to more places and see more people, for example, the advice is:

- you can go to work, as long as the workplace is COVID-secure – but carry on working from home if you can

- children who are clinically extremely vulnerable can go back to school (when the rest of their class goes back)

- you can go outside to buy food, to places of worship and for exercise – keeping 2 metres away wherever possible

This guidance will be updated with these changes on 1 August.

From 1 August, individuals will no longer be eligible for SSP on the basis of being clinically extremely vulnerable. Your employer should help you to transition back to work safely and support you to keep to social distancing in your workplace (if you can’t work from home).

If you are unable to work from home, some employers may be able to offer different types of leave. Beyond your statutory leave entitlements, this will be at your employer’s discretion:

if you have previously been furloughed for a full 3-week period prior to 30 June, your employer may be able to apply for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, under which you can be furloughed and receive 80% of your regular wages, up to a cap of £2,500. This scheme will run until the end of October

Statutory Sick Pay is available as a safety net in cases where you are unable to work or to be furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. If you are shielding you will be eligible for SSP until 31 July’

What happens if we want to furlough someone but they haven't been on the scheme before?

As the furlough scheme changed on 1st July to become the Flexible Furlough Scheme, additional options became available to employers to have their staff working part time and furloughed part time. This is a positive move towards returning employees back to their contracted hours.

With the new scheme came some new guidance, which in part prevents the system from being abused. To utilise the scheme from 1st July:

1. You must have furloughed an employee prior to the 30th June. As the original scheme required employees to be furloughed for a minimum of 3 weeks this mean in effect an employee had to have had their first period of furlough prior to 10th June.

2. You cannot claim for any more employees in any given claim period than the highest number of employees included in any claim period prior to 1st July. This therefore means you have to consider a maximum limits and need to plan your furloughed workers carefully to be able to continue to claim.

Do we need to send an FFS Variance to anyone who has previously been furloughed?

When the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was first introduced, it was a requirement that you had the right to change the employment status of a worker to ‘furloughed’ and have their agreement to do so. This mean for most, the reality was that employees had to be provided with a variance / agreement to change their employment status if needed to benefit from the scheme. This was needed as one of the core terms of any employment is the hours your are guaranteed and the rates of pay you agreed – furlough was in effect changing this as you were not working and receiving just 80% or £2500 maximum.

With the changes to the scheme from 1st July allowing employers to allow their workers to work part time and be furloughed for the remaining contracted hours then this again brings a change to their core terms of employment that differs from the original agreement and consent given to participating in the furlough scheme, a new agreement should therefore be in place for all employees that may be required to participate in the amended scheme.

Of course, this may not need to be issued to your full workforce as if you have not furloughed an employee for a minimum of 3 weeks prior to 30 June, they are not eligible for the new amended scheme.

If you are unsure what to put in an agreement then we have a downloadable free template on our Covid-19 resource page on our website

Check out our other FAQ's this week:

A staff member wants to travel to see family abroad. What are the quarantine options?

I don't feel like I am getting the same productivity from staff working at home, how can I address this?

For clarity on any of the above you can reach us on 0844 879 7286.

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Dragonfly Grounds Care Ltd

You are all doing a fantastic job guys and I just want to let you all know we would be in a real panic had it not been for the support and advice you have given us so far. I really don't know if we would have been in business at the end of this. But with your exceptional effort I feel much more confident that we can ride this storm and come out the other end. The decision we made as a business to procure your services has paid massive dividends.

Thank you from all at Dragonfly.

Dragonfly Grounds Care Ltd

Northern Accountants

Sarah and the team at Quest have provided us HR support since January 2013.

Quest Consulting Services provided us with a comprehensive employment structure with contacts and a handbook and have been on hand to help me deal with the occasional issue I have faced with team members through their telephone support service.

As our personal Consultant, Sarah provides a quality, professional and complete service which is great value for money.

Northern Accountants

Off Limits Corporate Events

Sarah has transformed our HR and has introduced systems that have taken lots of hassle away from staffing issues within our company.

We have worked with Sarah and her team for 5 years and in this time our business has grown considerably. With telephone support available for all our Managers as they need it plus Sarah and her team proactively keeping us updated on changes in legislation we are reassured that we are in safe hands.

The HR software that Quest implemented also helps us keep on top of the routine aspects of HR such as holiday bookings, recording absence, holding personnel records which then allows Sarah and her team easy access to give us relevant advice.

Our Managers have also benefited from workshops run by Sarah to help develop their skills on handling issues such as disciplinary, appraisals, recruitment etc….

The support of Quest is invaluable and provides a much more cost effective solution than employing a HR Manager in house.

Off Limits Corporate Events

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