Covid: What to do if you're vulnerable and shielding and can't work from home

  • Video report by ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi

  • Words by ITV News Multimedia Producer Ann Yip

Vulnerable people are being asked yet again to shield as England entered a third national lockdown.

The Covid-19 vaccine is being rolled out across the country and people classed as clinically extremely vulnerable are on the priority list. So it is hoped that those people will be able to return to normal lives (as normal as they can be).

In the meantime, the new strain of the virus is much more transmissible than the original and those who are shielding are being asked not travel outside for work or education. They are also advised not to go to shops, and to ask friends or family to help.

What does this mean for people who need to shield but who cannot work from home? We found out:

Who is being asked to shield by the government?

People who are classed as "clinically extremely vulnerable/at high risk" or have been added to the Shielded Patient List by their GP should be shielding.

People who are "clinically vulnerable / at moderate risk" are not specifically being asked to shield by the government, but the NHS has urged them to practice social distancing.

But people living with shielders should continue to work if they are unable to work from home, the government has advised.

People with the following conditions are automatically deemed to be clinically extremely vulnerable, otherwise they will need to be added to the shielding list:

  • solid organ transplant recipients

  • people with specific cancers

  • people with severe respiratory conditions

  • people with diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections

  • people on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection

  • problems with your spleen

  • adults with Down’s syndrome

  • adults on dialysis or with chronic kidney disease (stage 5)

  • women who are pregnant with significant heart disease

See the full list here.

Can my boss force me to attend work if I am vulnerable?

If you are vulnerable and you are being forced to attend work, your boss could be breaking the law, according to employment lawyers Monaco Solicitors.

The law firm suggests that you could claim for discrimination relating to pregnancy, age or disability, or for breach of health and safety law.

If your boss is forcing you to work despite you being at risk, they may be acting unlawfully Credit: PA

Can I be furloughed if I cannot work from home?

Yes. Although the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which has been extended until the end of April, should not be used for for short term sick leave, your boss can choose to furlough you if you are deemed clinically extremely vulnerable or if you are off on long-term sick leave.

But your boss should first take steps to see if you can work from home.

Can my boss refuse to put me on furlough? What are the other options?

Your boss can refuse to put you on furlough, it is up to them who they put through on the scheme.

You may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay or Employment Support Allowance. Your formal shielding letter will act as evidence for your employer and the Department of Work and Pensions that you have been advised to shield by the government.

However, Monaco Solicitors suggests that if vulnerable people are unhappy about being refused furlough, they might have a claim for disability or age discrimination.