Can shielding employees return to work? Latest government guidance for vulnerable people wanting to go back to their jobs during lockdown

Shielding is a method of protecting society's "extremely vulnerable" from contracting Covid-19

While Scotland currently sets its own guidance and has so far not changed its stance on shielding, over in England, people who are shielding can now leave their home if they wish, “as long as they are able to maintain strict social distancing.”

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Coronavirus shielding: the vulnerable groups being told to remain indoors – and ...

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Shielding is a means of protecting society's "extremely vulnerable" from contracting Covid-19.

An elderly woman wearing a face mask (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Those categorised as vulnerable because of an underlying health condition should have received written communication from their GP practice or specialist on how best to protect themselves in March.

Those affected were advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for a period of at least 12 weeks from the day they received their letter.

But what does it mean for shielding employees? Will they have to go back to work now?

Here’s everything you need to know:

Can shielding employees return to work?

In Scotland, the advice around shielding has not changed,

This means that shielding employees should not be returning to work.

Instead, leaving the house remains advised against, even to go out for shopping, leisure or travel or to pick up food and medication deliveries.

Carers are able to continue to visit but must follow guidelines, and those without a care network close by can make use of a national support system, including pharmacists, supermarkets and local authorities.

Those who are shielding also get a phone number to ring if they need support accessing food or medicine.

The Scottish Government are asking people to keep shielding until at least the end of July, and will continue to support those who are shielding until at least the end of that month.

If infection rates in Scotland are low enough, a change to the guidance could be announced on 18 June.

For more information on shielding in Scotland, head to the Scottish government's website

What if I want to return to work?

Since shielding is more for your own good than that of the others around you, the advice on it has always been “advisory”.

In Scotland, if you are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus, you are “strongly advised” to shield yourself to reduce your chance of getting the virus.

“Shielding is for your personal protection,” say the Scottish Government; “It’s your choice to decide whether to follow these measures.”

So in theory, if you have been shielding up until this point, you could opt to return to work, but this will be a deeply personal decision you may want to discuss with family or others that are close to you.

It’s also recommended that you phone your GP or specialist to discuss this as well.

What do the changes in England mean?

In England – where lockdown measures have been eased at a much faster rate than in Scotland – changes come into force today (1 June).

“People who are shielding remain vulnerable and should continue to take precautions but can now leave their home if they wish, as long as they are able to maintain strict social distancing,” say the Government.

“If you choose to spend time outdoors, this can be with members of your own household.

“If you live alone, you can spend time outdoors with one person from another household. Ideally, this should be the same person each time. If you do go out, you should take extra care to minimise contact with others by keeping two metres apart. This guidance will be kept under regular review.”

More information on English shielding measures can be found here