Advice for vulnerable people

This page was last updated on 16 August 2021

England is now in step 4 of the government’s roadmap. This means that most legal restrictions have been lifted.

However, the government advises that:

  • Employers should gradually phase in returns to workplaces where staff have been working from home.
  • If you have Covid-19 symptoms, or have been in close contact with someone who has had a positive test, you should have a daily test.
  • You should continue to isolate if you have a positive test.
  • You should consider wearing a face covering in crowded areas.
  • You should continue to minimise social contacts.

Employers still have a legal duty to keep workplaces safe and to keep their employees safe whilst at work and when travelling to work.

The government has advised that some groups of workers are at greater risk from Covid-19 than others. Government advice for these people is that they should now follow the same guidance as everyone else. However, as someone who is at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if you were to catch Covid-19, you should think particularly carefully about precautions you can continue to take.

In addition to people who are described as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’, other groups that have been identified as being at a higher risk of Covid-19 are:

  • older males
  • people who have a high body mass index (BMI)
  • people who have health conditions such as diabetes
  • people who are from some Black, Asian or minority ethnicity (BAME) backgrounds

Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) people

People who are CEV were previously required to shield. As most legal restrictions have now ended, people who are CEV can be expected to attend work. Social distancing rules in the workplace have also now ended, but employer still have a legal duty to protect the health and safety of their workers.

We believe that employers should complete individual risk assessments with workers who are CEV, and ensure that any recommendations are followed. If you feel that your employer is not taking your health and safety seriously please contact us for advice and help.

Government guidance for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable

If you are unable to attend work on medical grounds, and your employer cannot make sufficient adjustments you may also be entitled to the following social security benefits:

Pregnant women

As soon as you inform your employer that you are pregnant, they must do a pregnancy risk assessment with you. This is a legal requirement under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Clearly, this should now include the impact on Covid on you and your baby.

The government has said that your employer should refer to the latest advice issued by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. We expect your manager to use this advice when completing the risk assessment with you.

View the latest guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists on Covid and pregnancy at work

The risk assessment should consider the nature of your role, the stage of your pregnancy, your age, your race, the prevalence of Covid where you live and where you work, how you travel to work, and anything else relevant to you, your pregnancy and your work. It should be regularly reviewed with you.

If you cannot work because the risk from Covid-19 in your workplace cannot be fully mitigated, and you can’t do your job from home, you are entitled to suspension on full pay. Not SSP or occupational sick pay. You cannot be forced to start your maternity leave early (except within the last 4 weeks before your due date.

Black / BAME workers

In UNISON, Black is used to indicate people with a shared history. Black with a capital ‘B’ is used in its broad political and inclusive sense to describe people in Britain that have suffered colonialism and enslavement in the past and continue to experience racism and diminished opportunities in today’s society.

Find out more about how UNISON uses the term Black

UNISON is very concerned about the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Black/BAME workers, and also the wider impact on racism that the pandemic is having. Our concerns have been heightened following the publication of the “Disparities in the risk and outcomes of Covid-19” report.

The report found that Black men are nearly 4 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white men, and Black women are 3.5 times more likely to die than white women.

Whatever the reasons for these disparities, we believe that employers must consider the specific risks to Black/BAME workers and consider this particular group of workers when conducting Covid-19 risk assessments.

Although Black/BAME workers have not been included as a specific group in the government list of vulnerable people, we believe that employers should consider Black/BAME workers in the same way as they do other vulnerable workers.

Black/BAME workers should:

  • work from home where possible, or be deployed (with no loss of pay) to roles that can be done from home
  • if working from home is not possible, should only attend the workplace where strict social distancing measures can be observed
  • if none of the above can be achieved then Black/BAME workers should be allowed to stay at home without loss of pay

Living with someone who is vulnerable

Lots of our members may not fall into any of the vulnerable categories themselves, but they will live with people who do. They will be worried about coming into contact with the disease at work and bringing it home.

We believe that responsible employers will under take risk assessments with employees who are worried about living with someone who is vulnerable. Employers should consider the home circumstances of their employees and make adaptations, such as being able to work from home.

If you feel that your employer is not managing your personal risks sufficiently, and there is more they can do to help you, please raise this with your manager. If you need our support please contact the branch office.

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