What should an employer do if an employee who is shielding because they are clinically extremely vulnerable from coronavirus cannot work from home?
People who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) because of certain underlying health conditions are referred to as being clinically extremely vulnerable. These people would have received notification from the NHS that they are in this group and would have been advised to "shield" at various stages of the coronavirus pandemic (depending on local and national restrictions in force).
Employers who have clinically extremely vulnerable employees should ensure that they are aware of the most up-to-date guidance for their region. For example, current government guidance applicable to England is that clinically extremely vulnerable employees should not attend the workplace.
An employee who is in the clinically extremely vulnerable group is likely to be a disabled person under the Equality Act 2010. Their employer must ensure that it does not discriminate against them because of something arising from their disability, ie because they are shielding, and must consider what reasonable adjustments should be put in place for them.
Where a vulnerable employee is not able to do their own job from home, but could work from home in an alternative role, it is likely to be a reasonable adjustment to allow them to do so.
Where working from home is not possible even with adjustments, the employer should consider furloughing them under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. HM Revenue and Customs guidance on the scheme confirms that employees can be furloughed in these circumstances.