Employers have a legal responsibility to protect their employees and others from risks to their health and safety. The University continues to recognise the need for risk assessments and decisions to be made by managers regarding how their team members can continue to work safely in light of Covid-19.

As government guidance on working from home relaxes, many staff will take a blended approach with some days working on campus and other days working from home. For others they will continue to either permanently work on-campus or from home depending on their role.

Where staff are clinically extremely vulnerable, or vulnerable to Covid-19 due to underlying health conditions and combinations of other factors, this should continue to be considered in manager's risk assessments.

In most cases, staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable will wish to continue to take some additional precautions.

Immunisation against Covid-19 in most cases will reduce risk significantly, however in cases where staff are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable or immunocompromised, it is possible that varying degrees of additional risk will remain. On-going additional measures may continue to be required at work to ensure risk is minimised as far as possible. Immunisation should be seen as only part of these measures.

These measures can include: avoiding contact with people you do not normally meet; keeping a respectful distance from others, hand hygiene, cleaning surfaces, maintaining good ventilation in rooms and other protective measures including masks and other PPE where necessary or agreed.

Important additional factors

Many assessments of staff vulnerability to Covid-19 can be more complex. We understand that this can cause a variety of concerns and anxieties for managers and staff alike.

The Occupational Health service uses an evidence-based approach with reference to the Association of local authority medical advisors (ALAMA) Covid-age guidance which is able to assess the relative risk of a combination of different factors.

Other important factors to consider include pregnancy, ethnicity, age, gender, Body Mass Index (BMI), and other comorbidities and treatments which may combine and contribute to an increased risk for certain individuals.

For example, current best practice advises that women who are 28 weeks pregnant or more (third trimester) should be treated as clinically extremely vulnerable and should continue to stay away from the workplace/work from home.

Current local infection rates, immunisation status and the nature of the work activities are other important factors in determining overall risk and whether work activities are safe for an individual.

Covid (Sars-CoV-2) immunisations

Immunisation against covid, whilst highly effective for most, does not guarantee protection for everyone. It is understood that a number of individuals due to health reasons may not be able to receive covid immunisation. For others, such as those whose immune systems are compromised, immunisation may be less effective. Covid immunisation should be considered as only part of the picture in terms of protecting people from covid. For the time-being, risk assessments and appropriate measures to protect people at work will also continue to remain important.

Guidance from ALAMA and The Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM) currently recommends that immunisation against Covid-19, 3 weeks previously confers a reduction in risk of one stratum, i.e. from 'very high risk' to 'high risk', from 'high risk' to 'moderate risk' and from 'moderate risk' to 'low risk'.

Exceptions to this may include individuals on immune suppressant medication or with conditions affecting immunity such as HIV or cancer, who may not respond so well to vaccines.

Available guidance

There is extensive guidance currently available from a number of organisations. Resources are being regularly updated as new information becomes available, including The Society of Occupational Medicine (SOM), the NHS and ALAMA.

Please note: It is recommended that much of the information in these resources is used for background information only. Clinical judgements regarding health risk should be left to medical advisors including the NHS, GPs, specialists and occupational health professionals. In more complex cases where clinical advice is required, please contact Occupational Health.

Next steps for managers and who to contact for further information

Occupational Health is able to assist managers with individual health risk assessment in potentially complex cases where further advice is required. It is advisable that managers discuss any such request for advice from Occupational Health with the individual first.

All health-related risk-assessment queries can be submitted to: occupational-health@york.ac.uk

Recovery from Covid-19

NHS guidance is now available regarding recovery from Covid-19, including recovery from the potential wide ranging and long-term effects. Visit the covid recovery pages on the NHS website.

If specific work-related advice is required, for example due to the long-term effects of Covid on a member of staff, mangers are advised to consider referral to Occupational Health.