COVID-19: doctors isolating and those in vulnerable groups

Read our frequently asked questions for doctors who are isolating, have underlying health conditions or live with someone who is in a high risk group.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Monday 12 October 2020

When should I self isolate?

  • If you show symptoms of the virus you should stay at home and not meet up with other people for seven days.
  • If you feel better after that period you can start your usual routine again.

If you share your home with someone who has symptoms

  • You should stay at home and not meet up with other people for 14 days.
  • If you develop symptoms during that time then you must stay home for seven days from when you became ill.

The above advice is following guidance from Public Health England.

 

Will I be paid if I self isolate?

NHS staff receive full pay whilst in self-isolation. 

In the event that you are asked to self-isolate, you should do so as quickly as possible.

You should discuss with your clinical manager whether there are any duties which you can perform from home whilst you are self isolating, if you are not ill.

‘Full pay’ is paying what the staff member would have otherwise earned if they were not in isolation, inclusive of any enhancements.

 

I am clinically extremely vulnerable. Do I have to return to the workplace?

The government is advising that you do not need to shield at the moment. Staff who have been shielding may be able to return to work provided their place of work is 'COVID-19 secure'.

In a BMA letter to all trusts sent we said that those in the ‘shielding group’ remain at very significant risk from Covid-19 and have already been assessed as being in the highest risk category. If staff from the shielding group are able to return to a ‘COVID-19 secure’ workplace it is essential that they have a detailed risk assessment before doing so.

However, in areas which are facing local restrictions employers have been advised to revise their plans for supporting people to return to the workplace.

 

What do I do if I live in an area that is facing local restrictions?

Follow government advice on local restrictions in areas with an outbreak of COVID-19:

If you’re clinically extremely vulnerable and live in an area where additional public health measures require you to resume shielding, follow this advice:

 

What duty does my employer have to make my place of work ‘COVID-secure’?

Your employer cannot force you to return to the workplace if it is unsafe. It is the duty of the employer to make the workplace safe in light of COVID-19.

It is an employer's duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and they must do whatever is reasonably practicable to achieve this.

Employers have duties under health and safety law to assess risks in the workplace.

Employers must give you information about the risks in your workplace and how you are protected. They must also instruct and train you on how to deal with the risks.

Employers must consult employees on health and safety issues.

 

What support can I expect from my employer if I have to shield?

It is vital that staff who are shielding are supported by their employers to be able to continue contributing to work and that employers engage with staff to identify tasks which are suitable for home working. This way staff can continue to feel productive while remaining safe.

Employers have a duty of care to employees working from home and must ensure appropriate health and safety arrangements are implemented, and equipment provided.

This includes:

 

What should happen before I return to work?

Before your return to the workplace, your employers should undertake an individual risk assessment and implement any necessary adjustments based on individual circumstances.

This could include that you carry on working remotely.

1. Your individual risk assessment

  • Depending on where you work the approach to risk assessments will vary. Generally, it is your line manager who will carry out a risk assessment with input from the occupational health service. You can find further information in our risk assessment guidance.
  • Your risk assessment should cover the reasons for shielding properly (including if you are living with someone else who is considered clinically extremely vulnerable).
  • If you feel your questions weren’t addressed sufficiently or if there are outstanding issues, ensure there is a follow up discussion.
  • After the assessment, you and your line manager should come to an agreed decision regarding your risks and appropriate mitigating actions.
  • Also read your employer’s workplace policies around COVID-19, health and safety, and workplace attendance.

2. Return-to-work conversation with your employer

  • You should have a meeting with your employer to agree a plan for return and discuss any support you may need to have a smooth return to work.
  • Discuss factors outside of work which may affect your return, including childcare or caring responsibilities.
  • Your employer should update you about any relevant changes to the team or organisations.
  • Don’t feel pressured to take on too much too soon. If you are concerned about returning having not worked in your usual role for a few months and need further support, your employer should offer support including an induction, training, clinical supervision, mentoring and/or buddying. See our guidance on agreeing a plan for return and assessing your readiness to take up full responsibilities.
  • If you are a trainee you can access support through your HEE office, including the SuppoRTT (Supported Return To Training) programme to provide targeted assistance to help you get back up to speed.

3. Your return to the workplace

  • Your employer should keep their working arrangements under constant review, based on the latest government advice.
  • You should let your employer know if you have any concerns, have identified new potential risks, or have suggestions for further adaptations.
  • Your risk assessment should be repeated if there is a change in your medical condition.

 

I have a difference in view with my employer about the outcome of my risk assessment, what should I do?

If you and your manager assess individual risk differently then an independent assessment of the risks should be carried out through input from a medical professional, for example, an accredited specialist in occupational medicine.

If you need any further advice then please contact the BMA on 0300 123 1233 and [email protected] 

 

How should my employer support me working remotely, following my risk assessment?

Following your risk assessment, if you and your line manager have agreed that you continue working remotely, read our briefing on supporting staff who are shielding to return to work. This briefing outlines how your employer should support you and what types of tasks you could undertake.

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