Shielders are those identified as being at the highest risk of serious complications or death from Covid-19 due to their existing health conditions. This includes cancer patients, those with severe respiratory conditions and others undergoing immunosuppressive treatment.
Like some sick April Fool’s joke, the government has told hundreds of thousands of shielding workers to return to the workplace on 1 April .
Although the government’s guidance to work from home if you can remains in place until at least June, thousands of shielding workers have jobs which can’t be done from home, in open sectors such as public services, manufacturing and construction. And employers have been given no additional guidance to consider the specific risks of those in the shielded group.
The vast majority of shielders have not received their second vaccine dose – and one in ten have not even received their first dose. The first vaccine dose gives 52-75 per cent protection from the virus. Changing advice to all shielders, regardless of their vaccination status, is deeply irresponsible.
It is premature to ask shielders to return to workplaces when it is not yet even considered safe to open non-essential retail, which remains closed until 12 April.
The TUC believes that the government should reconsider the decision to end shielding on 1 April.
Instead, the government should:
Trade unions should seek to prevent unreasonable attempts to return shielders to the workplace before the end of restrictions on 21 June – regardless of existing government advice.
Union reps should seek to negotiate:
Just as we have for the last twelve months, unions will continue to prioritise health and safety at work and fight to ensure no worker has to choose between their health and their livelihood.
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