Vulnerable workers and coronavirus

Find out what you need to know to work safely and protect yourself or loved ones from infection while working during the pandemic.

National guidance

Read the government guidance on shielding and protecting vulnerable people and for those working in the NHS the guidance Supporting our most vulnerable people which applies across England, Scotland, Wales and NI.

Frequently asked questions

I have a long-term condition and I have been told I need to ‘shield’ myself.  What are my rights?   

There are some people considered as very high risk due to underlying long-term conditions.  If you are in the most at risk group, your local NHS/HSC should have made contact with you.  You must follow their advice, make contact with your line manager and explain what your letter says. The current guidance is for anyone in this category to ‘shield themselves’ by staying at home for at least 12 weeks from receiving the letter. Therefore your manager should support you to work from home if possible and in accordance with the national guidance.  If it is not possible for you to work we would expect that within the NHS you would still receive full pay as you are being excluded on medical grounds.

(Last updated 31-3-20)


I think I am in a high-risk group but I have not yet been contacted?

For staff who have not yet been contacted but think they are in high risk group then your employer should support you to work flexibly or remotely and should ensure you are redeployed from any high-risk areas.  If it is not possible to manage the risk then you should be placed on medical suspension, how this is dealt with will depend on your contract of employment.  You should also contact your GP to discuss if you do not receive the letter.

(Last updated 31-3-20)


I am not considered high risk but I do have a long term condition?

If you are not in the most at risk group but have a long term condition it is important that your employer supports you to stay well and makes adjustments so you can continue to work where appropriate and possible.  Line managers should ensure Occupational Health are involved and an individual risk assessment is undertaken.  This should consider your condition, how stable it is and whether further advice may have to be sought from your specialist.  This must all be done in consultation with you. Following this, any necessary adjustments will be identified and may include working remotely or from home, or moving to a lower risk area. 

(Last updated 31-3-20)


I have asthma, is that included as a long-term condition?

The guidance on high risk categories identifies those with severe asthma as at risk but this still leaves some confusion as to what is classed as severe and the steps that might be needed if you have less severe or well-controlled asthma.

We would always recommend a risk assessment if you have a long-term condition that might make you more vulnerable, and this should take into account the severity of your asthma, and should also seek input from your specialist and occupational health as required.  This assessment may lead to specific recommendations or may indicate that normal hand hygiene and normal use of PPE is sufficient.

You might also find the guidance from Asthma UK useful.

(Last updated 31-3-20)


I live with someone with someone who is considered vulnerable.  What steps should I take? 

The vulnerable group includes those with long-term conditions (that are not considered high risk), those who are pregnant and those over 70 years of age. If you are living with someone who is considered vulnerable it is really important that you try to keep yourself and those around you safe. Take all of the infection control procedures, use effective personal protective equipment as advised and maintain social distancing as far as you are able at work.  According to current guidance, healthcare workers who have a vulnerable family member do not need to self-isolate and can continue to work clinically.  However you should have a discussion with your line manager so they can undertake a risk assessment with you and put in place any necessary measures to support you. 

(Last updated 31-3-20)


I live with someone who has been advised to shield themselves.  What should I do?

Whilst the current guidance does not suggest everyone in the household is required to adopt protective shielding measures for themselves, it does suggest that people would need to follow the advice stringently on social distancing to minimise the risk of the virus spreading within the home. 

This would include minimising time in shared spaces, keeping shared spaces well ventilated, and keeping two metres away from people who you live with. For detailed information please see the government guidance on shielding.

For staff in this category again we would expect a full risk assessment to be undertaken and any reasonable adjustments to be put in place which may include moving to low risk areas or working from home if that is an option. 

Some NHS Trusts are offering accommodation for staff who are concerned about returning home from work because they have vulnerable or extremely vulnerable family members.  You would need to discuss this locally to find out if this was an option.

(Last updated 31-3-20)


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