Last reviewed 23 June 2020

More than two million people shielding from coronavirus have been advised by Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock that they can spend more time outside their homes from Monday 6 July.

As virus infection rates continue to fall, he said that the advisory guidance for 2.2 million clinically extremely vulnerable people across England would be eased so that they can gather in groups of up to six people outdoors and form a “support bubble” with another household.

However, Mr Hancock continued, the Government will keep the shielding support package in place until the end of July to give people time to adjust to these changes.

From 1 August, those who need to work and cannot do so from home will be able to return to work as long as their workplace is Covid secure, adhering to the guidance available, he confirmed.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jenny Harries, said: “People should continue to follow social distancing guidance when outside their homes, as well as frequently washing their hands, to minimise the risk of becoming infected. We will continue to monitor the evidence closely and adjust the advice accordingly if there are any changes in the rates of infection that could impact on this group.”

Following this review of the shielding measures, the Government will be writing to all individuals on the Shielded Patient List with updated information on shielding advice and the ongoing support that will be available to them.

Mr Hancock said that he recognised that individuals unable to work from home may feel uncertain about returning to the workplace.

Mindful of this, the Government is asking employers to ease the transition for their clinically extremely vulnerable employees, ensuring that robust measures are put in place for those currently shielding to return to work when they are able to do so.

“For anyone concerned about returning to work once the guidance has eased, we recommend they speak with their employer to understand their specific policies in relation to Covid-19,” the Health Secretary said. “We advise they discuss their situation, agree a plan for returning to work and adjustments that may be needed before they return.”

Comment by Croner Associate Director Paul Holcroft

As described above, those who have been shielding may return to work from 1 August 2020 as long as the workplace is “Covid secure” and it will be for employers to demonstrate that this is the case.

It is therefore vital that employers follow the available guidance on social distancing and physical adjustments to the workplace, but it will be as crucial to communicate those changes to those who have been shielding to reassure them that the workplace is as risk free as possible.

Employers cannot compel someone to come to work, and those who refuse should be managed appropriately; this means considering their individual position and making reasonable adjustments for employees who have a disability.

Employees are protected in law for refusing to come to work where they have a reasonable belief that it poses a serious and imminent threat to their health, and this is why communication is so important. Employers are strongly advised to show employees that their health and safety is of paramount importance.