Kidney Care UK are part of a coalition of 20 charities calling on employers across the UK to put protective measures in place for staff who are likely to have reduced protection from the Covid-19 vaccine. The organisations, representing up to 500,000 people in the UK, also include Blood Cancer UK, Crohn’s & Colitis UK, and the MS Society.
The vaccine rollout has been a great success, but there is growing evidence that current vaccines give much less protection to people who have a weakened immune response due to a specific health condition or because they receive certain treatments.
The coalition are calling for:
- Individual Covid-19 risk assessments to be prioritised as a matter of urgency for employees at most risk
- Adjustments such as flexible start times to avoid peak time travel on public transport
- Those most at risk to be allowed to continue working from home where possible
- The use of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme - open until 30 September - to furlough those who cannot work from home.
Speaking on behalf of the coalition, Fiona Loud, Policy Director at Kidney Care UK said: “With many companies expecting their workforce to return to offices this month action MUST be taken to ensure that people who are not fully protected by the vaccine are supported at work. There is no one size fits all approach. People are keen to get back to their usual activities but to be safe while doing so, which is why it is so important that comprehensive and individual risk assessments are carried out.
“As soon as lockdown restrictions started to lift at the end of March employers have been asking their staff to return to the workplace. This has left many of those who have been shielding for over a year and who have been warned by doctors that the vaccine may give them less protection, feeling incredibly anxious.”
According to the Office for National Statistics, despite shielding advice being paused on 31 March, at least half of those in the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable group continued to shield. One in ten have not left their house in the last week. Kidney Care UK’s Lifting Lockdown report found that only one in four (26%) respondents currently in employment were expected to be able to work from home once restrictions ease, with many seeking reassurances that employees can ensure their safety at work. Crohn’s & Colitis UK’s ‘Life in Lockdown’ survey found that two in five (42%) respondents felt the pandemic could change working life for the better, with 1 in 5 (20%) saying that working from home reduced anxieties surrounding urgently needing the toilet at work or suffering from fatigue.
Hal, a kidney transplant recipient who works for a tech company in London, told us: “The prospect of returning to work is a stressful one for those of us who are clinically extremely vulnerable, especially as we're not yet sure if the vaccines have offered us any protection from Covid-19. Returning to work would not only mean having to interact in person with many people, it would also likely mean having to travel via public transport to work, another area of risk. While I'm fortunate that I can continue to work from home, I'm conscious that many people are not able to do so.”
Jesse Norman MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, has written to Kidney Care UK to confirm that employers are still required to take steps to reduce the risk of Covid exposure in the workplace and should discuss options with Clinically Extremely Vulnerable staff, including working from home or taking on a different role. Read the letter.
Those who are concerned that they may not be fully protected by the Covid-19 vaccine are urged to download a copy of the letter and share directly with their employer. You may like to write to your MP to ask them to raise your concerns about workplace safety for those who may not be fully protected by the vaccine with the Government: Download a template letter.
Full list of participating charities:
- Age UK
- Anthony Nolan
- Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance
- Blood Cancer UK
- Bowel Cancer UK
- Centre for Ageing Better
- Crohn's & Colitis UK
- Cystic Fibrosis Trust
- Diabetes UK
- Immunodeficiency UK
- Kidney Care UK
- Leukaemia care
- Lupus UK
- MS Society
- Muscular Dystrophy UK
- National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society
- National Voices
- Scleroderma and Raynaud's UK
- Vasculitis UK
- Versus Arthritis
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