Returning to work? DWP shares important information for shielders

Returning to work could be a daunting prospect after months of remaining at home. In March, the government advised all Britons to stay at home as much as possible to prevent the spread of the virus. However, a category of society was provided with extra guidance: those defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable.

These individuals, commonly known as shielders, are at high risk of serious illness if they were to contract COVID-19.

The government is currently advising people to shield until July 31, however guidance will be relaxed from August 1.

This will allow those who have been shielding to potentially get out and about, and resume their daily lives, which could include a return to work. 

As people go back to the workplace, there may be hesitation surrounding a number of issues, but perhaps most prominently, how workers will be protected from the virus.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has provided key tips for those who will be making a return to work, which could prove particularly helpful.

Firstly, having early conversations with an employer is key to securing an eased return to a working environment.

Employers should all be following the latest Safer Workplaces Guidance, so Britons are encouraged to speak with their manager about this, alongside any concerns they may have.

Secondly, an understanding of an individual’s rights within the workplace is also vital when returning to work.

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Those who follow public health advice should not be penalised when in their working environment. 

Employment rights assistance is available through Acas – a workplace expert providing free and impartial advice to employees and employers.

If a person feels their employer is not making a workplace safe enough to return, or an environment is not COVID-secure, they are encouraged to reach out to their employee representative, trade union or local authority.

Some Britons may be concerned about needing to self-isolate, as they fear losing pay.

Currently, NHS guidance states a person should self isolate if they have any symptoms of COVID-19, if waiting for a test result, or if testing positive for the virus. Today, the government announced, this should be for a period of 10 days. 

People will also be required to self-isolate if someone with whom they live has shown symptoms.

Thankfully, though, there is financial support which is at hand for the individuals who may be affected.

Those who self-isolate in line with government advice may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay and new-style Employment and Support Allowance.

They can check their eligibility by visiting the government website which contains more guidance on who can claim.

There is also additional support available through the Access to Work grant, which can pay for support or equipment for individuals with a disability to assist with their job.

The grant provides support or equipment beyond what an employer is required to provide, so is likely to prove useful.

Those who need a boost to finances due to circumstances may also be able to apply for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) if they have a disability or health condition, or Universal Credit if on a low income, or out of work.

Finally, when returning to work, Britons are encouraged to follow all relevant safety guidelines.

Washing hands, wearing a face covering on public transport and maintaining social distancing can all prevent the spread of the disease and keep people protected.

Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson commented on individuals returning to work in the coming weeks and months.

He said: “As we recover from COVID-19, our priority is to protect people’s health and their jobs.

“If they choose to bring staff back to the workplace, employers and employees must follow the guidelines and make sure their workspaces are COVID-secure, giving people confidence that they can return safely.”

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