Updated 31 July 2020

Shielding employees returning to work

From 1st August the Scottish Government has advised that shielding will be paused. This means that the same guidance will apply as the rest of Scotland and individuals will be able to return to work with strict physical distancing and hygiene measures in place.  Where employees have been able to work from home, they should continue to do so wherever possible.

Prior to returning to work, discussions will need to be held between the manager and employee, the following points have been listed to guide the discussion to ensure the safety and wellbeing of these employees, particularly where employees will be returning to their normal place of work rather than continuing to work from home.

Risk Assessment

  • Individual risk assessments will be required prior to returning to work. This is in addition to what the service already has in place for the role and specific to the employee returning to work. Further information on risk assessments can be found here.


  • Advise employee of any changes, updates or new ways of working introduced within the service as a result of COVID-19.
  • Determine any training required, new, additional or refresher based on new ways of working as a result of COVID-19.
  • Advise and reassure employee of measures in place to ensure strict physical distancing will be met, PPE required and hygiene measures in place.

Return to work plan

  • In some cases, a phased return may be appropriate in order to support the employee, for example the employee may be apprehensive about returning to work under the circumstances, they may need time to build up stamina after a long period at home shielding and/or to ensure physical distancing measures are working and being adhered to.
  • Consider if temporary, lighter, or alternative duties are required as a short-term adjustment and supportive measure.
  • Consider if additional PPE or equipment is required for the employee.
  • Consider use of Occupational Health if further assistance is required.

Annual leave

  • Encourage employee to use and plan their remaining annual leave, the recommendation is that employees have taken 75% of their annual leave by the end of October 2020.
  • In some cases the employee may be reluctant to take more time off work and may feel that being in the workplace is of benefit to their wellbeing, so discuss how annual leave can be planned (e.g. taking regular individual days rather than larger blocks of leave).


  • Ensure that CoreHR is updated to reflect the employee’s return to work. For those who have returned to their normal workplace, no recording is required.  For those who are continuing to work from home, the reason should be amended to reflect that Shielding is no longer the reason for working at home.

For any queries or assistance regarding the above please contact the Employee Relations team.

Underlying Medical Conditions - who is at risk?

This group includes those who are: 

And those with:

Some groups of people are considered to be at extremely high risk of severe illness with coronavirus.

This group includes people with: 

  • cancer and are receiving active chemotherapy 
  • lung cancer and are either receiving or previously received radical radiotherapy 
  • cancers of the blood or bone marrow, such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment 
  • severe chest conditions such as cystic fibrosis, severe asthma, severe COPD, severe bronchiectasis and pulmonary hypertension 
  • rare diseases, including all forms of interstitial lung disease/sarcoidosis, and inborn errors of metabolism (such as SCID and homozygous sickle cell) that significantly increase the risk of infections  
  • an absent spleen or have had their spleen removed
  • significant heart disease (congenital or acquired) and are pregnant

And those that have had:

  • solid organ transplants
  • bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs

Or receiving:

  • immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer 
  • other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors 
  • immunosuppression therapies that significantly increase the risk of infection
  • renal dialysis treatment

Anyone with one of the identified medical conditions above, should strictly follow the advice on Physical Distancing.

Managers must consider how best to introduce protection for these staff members in line with Government advice including alternative working arrangements including working from home, adjustments to working practices or working in isolation with the aim of minimising contact with customers or other staff members.  You should also complete the relevant risk assessment found on the Staying Safe While Working page.

Where their role is not suitable to be carried out from home and are therefore unable to undertake their normal role due to the need to undertake Physical Distancing effectively should be placed on special leave.  This special leave is to cover the period until alternative duties can be considered for the employee. 


Following the Chief Medical Officer’s advice on 16 March 2020 that all pregnant women are classed as a precaution in a vulnerable group, we understand that it must be an anxious time for employees if they are pregnant and work in a public facing role.

Pregnant women who can work from home should do so. If they can’t work from home, if they work in a public-facing role that can be modified appropriately to minimise their exposure, this should be considered and discussed with your occupational health team and the employee.

More detailed occupational health advice for pregnant women, including those who cannot work from home was published on 21 March 2020, and updated on 26 March. It recommends that if they are in their first or second trimester (less than 28 weeks pregnant), with no underlying health conditions, they should practise Physical Distancing but can choose to continue to work in a public-facing role, provided the necessary precautions are taken – these include the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and risk assessment.

If they are in their third trimester (more than 28 weeks pregnant), or have an underlying health condition – such as heart or lung disease – they should work from home where possible, avoid contact with anyone with symptoms of coronavirus, and significantly reduce unnecessary social contact. Please follow the latest advice on Physical Distancing.

Key Information

Following the latest Government advice, everyone who can work from home must now do so.

For those who cannot work from home and are delivering one of the listed critical services, alternative arrangements will be in place and your manager will communicate these to you.  Managers can use this decision tree to support them in determining if someone should be attending work.

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