Hundreds of disabled people and carers are being placed at risk of catching coronavirus because of a discrepancy in the Government's list of 'vulnerable' people.
Some workers that have physical disabilities are being told they must return to the office, despite being at high risk of catching the life-threatening coronavirus.
This is because they're not on the Government's list of 'vulnerable' people, meaning they have no evidence to prove they are not safe to return to work.
In some instances, people are being told to use up their annual leave because they do not qualify for protection.
The government’s register for extremely vulnerable people ensures they have access to vital supplies and care during the pandemic.
However, according to The Guardian, some employers are using the letters to decide who should return to work.
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In a number of cases, people who have not received letters are being told to return to their workplace despite being at high risk of coronavirus or caring for someone who is.
Those who refuse have been told they face dismissal, with one worker forced to self-isolate between shifts in order to protect their disabled child.
Harry Banes has primary progressive multiple sclerosis but is having to go to work as a petrol station attendant.
"The manager [has] little regard for social distancing. There are no restrictions on the amount of people coming in, and we only had a screen in front of the till last month," he told The Guardian.
Banes said he had asked to be furloughed but his boss had only offered statutory sick pay. "Because I didn't make the government’s list, I can’t back up potential vulnerability."
Four-year-old Charlie Sanders has type 1 diabetes with low immunity and is cared for by his parents, Jennifer and Michael. Michael stacks shelves in a supermarket, but because Charlie did not make the extremely vulnerable list, he said, his employer only offered unpaid leave. “We can’t afford that," Jennifer said. "We’re scared stiff."
Michael used three weeks' holiday pay in April but has now had to go back to work. He is self-isolating within the home away from his family between shifts in order to reduce the risk. Last week, it meant he missed Charlie’s birthday. "I went into the garden and watched him open presents from a distance,” Michael said. “Charlie couldn’t understand why Daddy can’t hug him."
Someone who is advised to shield in accordance with Public Health England guidance is entitled to statutory sick pay but this only applies to the 2.2million people the government now counts as "clinically extremely vulnerable".
However, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people if it is less safe for them to go to work than their non-disabled colleagues.
This comes after researchers warned 8million people with underlying health conditions should be exempt from plans to get the country back to work, amid fears that they would catch the virus.
Most of those are not considered clinically "extremely vulnerable" by the Department of Health and Social Care, and so instructed to shield entirely for 12 weeks, but are still highly vulnerable to coronavirus.
A government spokesperson said: “The clinically extremely vulnerable classification should not be used by employers to decide who can and cannot travel into work.
“We expect employers to be understanding where people aren’t able to work and need to stay at home on government advice. If an employee feels they have been unfairly treated by their employer, they should contact the Acas helpline for free and confidential advice on 0300 123 1100.”