What obligations does an employer have to an employee who lives with someone who is at very high risk of serious illness from coronavirus?

People who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) because of an underlying health condition are advised to "shield" themselves by staying at home for at least 12 weeks and avoiding any face-to-face contact. Government guidance on shielding for extremely vulnerable people, includes a list of those included in this category. These people will be notified by the NHS that they are at very high risk and should shield themselves.

According to the guidance, people who live with someone who is in the very high risk group should stringently follow guidance on social distancing and reduce their contact outside the home. However, they are not required to take the shielding measures themselves.

Employers should therefore support employees who live with someone at very high risk to work from home if at all possible. They should travel to work only if it is possible to follow the guidance on social distancing stringently and remain at least two metres away from others while at work, and on the way to and from work. If neither working from home nor strict social distancing is possible, employers should consider alternative arrangements, such as a period of furlough.

Government guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme confirms that employers can furlough an employee who needs to stay at home with someone who is sheilding. The employer can make a claim under the scheme for the employee if they are unable to work from home and the employer would otherwise have to make them redundant.