Shielding, furlough and Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

With the reintroduction of shielding, experts from Citation have reviewed how to clarify how shielding, furlough and SSP work in conjunction.

The key points are:

  • During lockdown the advice is that employees who are clinically extremely vulnerable should not attend work if they can’t work from home.
  • Formal shielding notification letters are being sent out and this letter will act as a fit note for SSP purposes.
  • The fact that SSP is once again payable for those who can’t attend work because they’re shielding does not change the fact that it’s open to the employer to furlough shielding employees. In December HMRC updated their furlough scheme guidance to add “An employer does not need to be facing a wider reduction in demand or be closed to be eligible to claim for these employees.” This update was welcome clarification of the confusion surrounding whether it would be appropriate for employers to use the furlough scheme for shielding employees in cases where work is available for them.
  • HMRC’s position remains that it is entirely down to the employer as to whether they chose to use the furlough scheme (although of course, the employee must agree to be furloughed). However, whilst this is in the employer’s discretion, this discretion, like any other decision affecting an employee, should be exercised reasonably and fairly. For example, a decision not to furlough someone who is shielding could lead to allegations of discrimination (particularly if there is inconsistency in approach throughout the business) or claims of breach of trust and confidence.
  • If an employer wishes to put a shielding employee on SSP rather than furlough, they should have a good business reason for doing so to counter any challenge or potential claim later down the line.

If you are experiencing issues relating to this, please speak to our experts by calling our 24/7 advice line on 0345 844 4848.

For further advice on Furlough you can access the Citation helpline via 0121 707 0077.