COVID-19 FAQs

To help members stay apprised, here are some answers to the questions we're getting asked most often. We'll keep this updated as the situation progresses. (Last updated 28 September 2020: General Queries, Health and SafetyHolidaysLay-offs and Short-Term WorkingNurseries and Childcare, Returning to the workplace and Schools FAQs..)

GENERAL QUERIES 

Coronavirus information page

Who is clinically extremely vulnerable? 

Expert doctors in England have identified specific medical conditions that, based on what we know about the virus so far, place someone at greatest risk of severe illness from COVID-19. 

Clinically extremely vulnerable people may include the following people. Disease severity, history or treatment levels will also affect who is in the group. 

Solid organ transplant recipients. 

People with specific cancers:  

  • people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy 
  • people with lung cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapy 
  • people with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment 
  • people having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer 
  • people having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors 
  • people who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs 

People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary (COPD). 

People with rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell). 

People on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infection. 

Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired heart disease - congenital or acquired. 

Other people who have also been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, based on clinical judgement and an assessment of their needs. GPs and hospital clinicians have been provided with guidance to support these decisions. 

Clinically extremely vulnerable are to rigorously follow shielding measures in order to keep themselves safe. This may include working from home wherever possible. 

Whilst the official advice from PHE and the Department for Education is that the majority of staff in education settings will not require PPE beyond what they would normally need for their work, Voice believes that, should you want to wear a mask, or deem it necessary in your place of work, then you should not be prohibited from wearing one.  

 

As we have always maintained, members should engage with the risk assessment process as we believe this is the best way for you to understand, and have input on, the measures that are being put in place. The school’s “specific circumstances” and the use of masks (both mandated and voluntary) should have been considered during the risk assessment process. This may be particularly appropriate for staff in certain roles, E.G. Office staff speaking with parents and visitors. 
 
Children and staff travelling to school on public transport MUST wear a face covering and should remove this upon entry to the school.    
 
Members should consider carefully the needs of children when making a decision on wearing a mask and should consider whether other forms of PPE would be more appropriate – especially for those children who rely on lip reading such as the deaf and hearing impaired.  

Where home working is not possible and following risk-assessment, they should be offered the safest available on-site roles, staying two metres away from others wherever possible, although the individual may choose to take on a role that does not allow for this distance if they prefer to do so. 

If they have to spend time within 2 metres of other people, settings must carefully assess and discuss with them whether this involves an acceptable level of risk. 

Update 

From 1 August, the guidance given to the CEV group will be in line with the advice currently given to the clinically vulnerable group. This means is that the CEV group will no longer be advised to shield.  

This means: 

  • the government will no longer be advising you to shield; 
  • the support from the National Shielding Service of free food parcels, medicine deliveries and care will stop;
  • NHS Volunteer Responders will carry on delivering the food you buy, prescriptions and essential items to you if you need it;
  • you will still be eligible for priority supermarket slots (if you have registered by 17 July); and
  • you may still be at risk of severe illness if you catch coronavirus, so stay at home as much as you can and continue to take precautions when you do go out. You can do this by washing your hands regularly, avoiding touching your face and keeping 2 metres away from people outside of your household or bubble wherever possible.  
  • you can go to work, as long as the workplace is COVID-secure – but should carry on working from home if you can 
  • children who are clinically extremely vulnerable can go back to school (when the rest of their class goes back)  

The Government expects employers to be understanding during the transition for their Clinically Extremely Vulnerable employees. The Department for Education will be reviewing its guidance, so it is clear what these changes mean for school staff and pupils. 

For anyone concerned about returning to work once the guidance has eased, we recommend they speak with their employer and understand their specific policies around health and safety and workplace attendance, especially in relation to COVID-19.  Risk Assessments should be modified to take into account the additional risks and measure to address this. 

If you feel your employer is not taking any steps to manage your return safely, then please contact our duty officer on 01332 372337

Who is clinically vulnerable? 

If you have any of the following health conditions, you are clinically vulnerable, meaning you are at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. You should take particular care to minimise contact with others outside your household. 

Clinically vulnerable people are those who are: 

  1. aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions) 
  2. under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (that is, anyone instructed to get a flu jab as an adult each year on medical grounds): 
  • chronic (long-term) mild to moderate respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis 
  • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure 
  • chronic kidney disease 
  • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis 
  • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), or cerebral palsy 
  • diabetes 
  • a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets 
  • being seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above) 
  • pregnant women 

Where possible clinically vulnerable people should work from home. 

If individuals cannot work from home, following an individual risk- assessment, they should be offered the safest available on-site roles, which ensures they will remain two metres away from others wherever possible, although the individual may choose to take on a role that does not allow for this distance if they prefer to do so.  

If they have to spend time within two metres of other people, settings must carefully assess and discuss with them whether this involves an acceptable level of risk.  A risk assessment should be completed. 

Those living with clinically vulnerable people are expected to attend school are normal. 

Mental Health 

For so many reasons, we are living through a very difficult time. Voice cares deeply about your health and wellbeing and this includes your mental health. If you think you require any help and support, then please access help from one of the services below - they are all free to access. 

Self-isolation 

If you have to self-isolate, you must inform your employer immediately. 

If you then develop symptoms, ensure that your employer knows this and book a time to be tested. If you test positive, you will be notified by text, email or phone and asked to log on to the NHS Test and Trace website. You will then be asked for some personal information to assist in the tracing of people you may have come into contact with.  

It is illegal for your employer to knowingly permit a worker (including an agency worker) to attend any place other than where the individual is self-isolating. This includes individuals who are required to self-isolate because they live with someone who has tested positive. So, if your employer knows a worker has tested positive (or lives with someone who has tested positive), they are now responsible for stopping the worker from working (unless they can work from home). Any employer who fails to do so will face a fine, starting at £1,000. 

Where self-isolation means buying deliveries (takeaway food, online deliveries, etc.) it is important that wherever possible you avoid direct contact with the person making the delivery – arrange for deliveries to be left on doorsteps or outside the room. See our section on Self-Isolation for more information.

What if I am contacted by the Tracers? 

If you are considered to be at risk of infection, you will be told to stay home for 14 days. This will still apply, even if you have no symptoms so that you don’t unwittingly spread the virus. The people you live with will not have to isolate with you unless they develop symptoms.  

Will I still be paid if I am not required to work? 

You should still be paid as per your contract and absence policy.  This will be different across the wider workforce so please check your contract.   If your contract has a temporary termination clause, this could be enacted. You may also be asked to work reduced hours and may only be paid for the hours you work.  

The government has said that if you are asked to self-isolate, without symptoms, by the NHS Track and Trace team, you are, as a minimum, eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) at £95.85 per week. In a televised interview on Thursday 28 May, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said  "If you are instructed by the NHS, for public health reasons, to stay at home then that is the equivalent in employment law to being ill and it is very important that employers are flexible about this." If you have any questions, then please call our membership line on 01332 378 008. 

FURTHER INFORMATION

Coronavirus information page (including Government guidance)