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Coronavirus staff guidance University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust

Shielding: frequently asked questions

Last updated: 26 March 2021 at 12:58

A member of my team has been shielding in line with government advice. How do I support them with their return back to work?

Line managers should contact all staff who have been shielding prior to 1 April 2021. The line manager and the member of staff should discuss the return to work plan, review the risk assessment to see if there have been any changes to the risk factors and discuss what their return to work will look like. This might mean support for staff to their work environment or the continuing of working from home, whichever is appropriate. To aid these discussions, we have developed a manager’s guidance and a return to work form.

To ensure a supportive and integrated return to work is in place there are a number of options that managers can consider, such as a phased return to work, flexible working, home working, etc. 

Despite the welcome reduction in infection rates, many staff may still be concerned about their risk of exposure to COVID-19 if they return to work. These discussions should be sensitive and understanding, and focus on both individual and workplace risk.

All staff should continue to follow national guidance on infection prevention and control and on the use of personal protective equipment.

Do I need to refer the member of staff to Occupational Health prior to their return to work?

This is not required unless there are significant changes in the risk assessment which present greater risk in comparison to their original risk assessment. It is anticipated that risks will lessen to reflect the infection rates reducing. Occupational Health can be contacted for further advice.

Do I need to carry out a new risk assessment?

Prior to shielding, staff will have completed a personal risk assessment for COVID-19 and will have been working with an appropriate risk reduction plan in place. As the background COVID-19 rates are now significantly lower, staff do not need any further adjustments to their risk assessment or risk reduction strategy unless a personal risk assessment has not yet been completed or there have been changes to their risk factors.

A member of staff is asking for a phased return to work, how do I go about this?

Supportive discussions should take place to agree a return to work plan. Whilst staff who have been shielding have not been sick, staff may be feeling anxious about returning to work and therefore a phased return to work can be explored. There is also the option for staff to use annual leave.

Can a member of staff return to work whilst they have family members who are shielding in line with previous government guidance?

Yes, as the shielding is due to end on 1 April 2021, staff who have members of households that are shielding can return to work. It is advised that managers should have a return to work discussion with them.

I have a member of staff who is 28 weeks pregnant and has been shielding. Can they return to work?

Please refer to the updated "Childcare and pregnancy" guidance from Occupational Health, available under "Related pages".

If the staff member is more than 28 weeks gestation then they should shield at home and work from home if possible (this includes clinical roles where desk-based activity can be assigned). If staff wish to remain in the workplace then this should either be in a non-patient facing role or with COVID negative patients only. All staff should strictly adhere to all infection prevention and control guidance on hand hygiene, social distancing, mask wearing etc.

Can a member of staff return to work if they have not received their first vaccination?

Based on the advice received from Occupational Health and government guidelines, staff can return to work even if they have not received their first dose of vaccination. More than 9 in 10 clinically extremely vulnerable people have been vaccinated with a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Various resources including FAQs are available for staff to answer any questions that they may have about the vaccination programme under "Related pages".

I have a member of staff who has only received their first dose of the vaccine, can they return to work?

Staff who are awaiting their second dose of vaccine can return to work. The vaccine status of the member of staff is not, at present, part of the individual risk assessment and therefore the risk mitigation advice is suitably precautionary for all members of staff returning to work, whether or not they have had the vaccine. If they have any concerns about returning to work, in the first instance they must discuss this with their manager who will explore the reasons and any support that can be offered to support their return to work plan. Advice from Occupational Health is available where required.

I'm worried about returning to work/feeling very anxious. Do I need to return to work?

If you are worried and anxious about returning to work, please speak to you line manager and explain your concerns. Your manager will support your return back to work and will explore any adjustments that you require.

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