Protect vulnerable workers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Latest advice on keeping workplaces safe from COVID-19

This page is up to date with working safely guidance in England. You can check the most up to date measures on GOV.UK. There are different regulations and guidance for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The latest advice on continuing to keep workplaces safe will help you assess the risks and reduce COVID-19 transmission. This includes links to advice from public health bodies and other government departments on measures not implemented by HSE.

As an employer, you have a legal duty to protect workers from harm. You should make sure you consider the risk to workers who are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus (COVID-19).

You should make sure controls identified by your risk assessment, for example adequate ventilation, good hygiene and cleaning, are applied strictly. As an employer, you can support your workers by ensuring:

  • you emphasise the importance of individual and wider workforce engagement, buy-in and cooperation to ensure controls are applied stringently
  • they have individual discussions with their managers around their particular concerns
  • you/they discuss the risk management measures you have put in place to minimise transmission to keep them, and others, safe
  • you explain the controls you will put/already have in place to protect them and other workers

If you work for yourself, you need to follow government guidance on working safely.

Workers previously identified as clinically extremely vulnerable

During the pandemic, the UK government defined some people as clinically extremely vulnerable.

Following expert clinical advice people previously considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable will not be advised to shield again.

Anyone previously identified as clinically extremely vulnerable should continue to follow the guidance in Coronavirus: how to stay safe and help prevent the spread.

Individuals should consider advice from their health professional on whether additional precautions are right for them.

Employers are encouraged to talk to any workers previously defined as clinically extremely vulnerable to explain the measures being taken to ensure they are working safely.

There are separate arrangements for Scotland and Wales.

Workers who are immunosuppressed

Immunosuppression means you have a weakened immune system due to a particular health condition or because you are on medication or treatment that is suppressing your immune system.

People who are immunosuppressed have a reduced ability to fight infections and other diseases, including COVID-19.

UK government public health guidance advises people who are immunosuppressed to work from home if they can. If they cannot work from home, they should talk to their employer about any temporary arrangements that could be made to reduce the risks.

Pregnant workers

There is a long-standing requirement for employers to put in place measures to ensure workplace safety where a significant health and safety risk is identified for a new or expectant mother.

Some pregnant workers will be at greater risk of severe illness from coronavirus (see Health Protection Scotland and Public Health Wales for any separate arrangements).

Employers will need to take this into account in their risk assessment.

If you cannot put the necessary control measures in place, such as adjustments to the job or working from home, you should suspend the pregnant worker on paid leave. This is in line with normal requirements under regulation 16(3) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

HSE has specific, non-COVID advice for new and expectant mothers.

We review and update this page regularly to reflect any changes in guidance.

Page last reviewed: 19 January 2022

Next review due: 30 January 2022

Updated 2022-01-19