Last reviewed 5 October 2020

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has reminded employers about their legal duty to protect workers from harm and, specifically, the importance of considering the risks to workers who are particularly vulnerable to Covid-19.

Recent figures showed that some groups of people may be at more risk of being infected (and possibly an adverse outcome if infected with the coronavirus). The higher-risk groups include those who:

  • are older males

  • have a high body mass index (BMI)

  • have health conditions such as diabetes

  • are from some black, Asian or minority ethnicity (BAME) backgrounds.

There are currently no expectations of additional controls for these groups but the HSE says employers should make sure existing controls (such as social distancing, good hygiene and cleaning, ventilation, and supervision, etc) are applied stringently.

Consultation, support and individual discussions between the worker and their manager around their particular concerns, as well as risk management measures and controls will be particularly important.

During the pandemic, the Government has also defined some people as “clinically extremely vulnerable” (previously described as shielded). These workers are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus. Clinically extremely vulnerable workers can return to their workplace as long as it is Covid-secure, but should carry on working from home wherever possible. Employers may also be able to offer alternative duties or change working patterns temporarily. Again, consultation and involvement is extremely important. These points also apply to workers living with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable.

Where there are local lockdowns, the HSE advises clinically extremely vulnerable workers to stay at home and shield. They should work from home where possible, and not attend a workplace within the area where local restrictions are in place.

Another important category of workers to consider is pregnant women. There is a long-standing requirement for employers to put in place measures to ensure workplace safety where a significant health and safety risk is identified for a new or expectant mother.

Further information on these categories of workers is available from the HSE website.