COVID-19 and individual risk assessments

Our guidance on individual risk assessments during COVID-19

Find out how to protect yourself, what you should expect from your employer and what to do if you have concerns.

The information below has been compiled by the RCN employment relations department. We'll be updating it as the situation develops - so please do check back often.

We are working hard in these challenging times to keep you updated. If you can't find what you are looking for please see our COVID-19 FAQs or Get help page, and contact us if you need further support.

Background

Some individuals are recognised as being at an increased risk of contracting or developing more severe complications, from exposure to SARs CoV-2 (coronavirus). If you have been identified as extremely clinically vulnerable you should follow government advice on shielding as detailed in our COVID-19 and time off guide. If your employer is pressurising you to go into the workplace, or withholding pay then please contact us

There are other factors which can increase your risk including gender, ethnicity and age, as well as underlying health conditions such as type 1 or 2 diabetes. Pregnancy, especially when over 28 weeks is also recognised as a risk factor. The more risk factors you have the greater your risk. 

The RCN expects all employers to follow their duties under health and safety legislation and carry out individual and workplace risk assessments. They should then take steps to reduce your risk which may include working from home, working in non-patient facing areas or improvements to your PPE. Whatever steps are taken they should discuss the issues with you and come to an agreement. If you are concerned with the results of the risk assessment or feel you are being bullied into accepting the findings, then you should escalate your concerns through your Occupational Health Department, your RCN workplace representative or contact us for advice. 

If you work for an agency, your agency should liaise with the host organisation where you are being placed and ensure that both individual and environmental risk assessments are being carried out and that any risk of harm is being reduced. 

Kim Sunley And Mitzi Wilson - Individual Risk Assessments podcast

Outside of the shielding group (extremely clinically vulnerable), other factors can increase your risk and are listed below: 

  • you are over 60 (your risk increases as you get older) 
  • you are from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background 
  • having a lung condition that's not severe (such as asthma, COPD, emphysema or bronchitis) 
  • having heart disease (such as heart failure) 
  • having type 1 or type 2 diabetes 
  • having chronic kidney disease 
  • having liver disease (such as hepatitis) 
  • having a condition affecting the brain or nerves (such as Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy) 
  • having a condition that means you have a high risk of getting infections 
  • taking medicine that can affect the immune system (such as low doses of steroids) 
  • you are very obese (a BMI of 40 or above).

See Public Health England's (PHE) report COVID-19: review of disparities in risks and outcomes for more information which identifies a number of risk factors that any individual risk assessment will need to consider. The background research on risk assessments for healthcare workers working with COVID-19 can be found here.

If you have one or more of the characteristics listed above, then you may be more at risk and should ask for an individual risk assessment and can use this letter to help you. Even if you do not have one of the above risk factors but are anxious about your risk then you can still ask for an individual risk assessment and use our letter to help you.   

Please also see the guidance from the Society of Occupational Medicine to support staff who are returning to work.

Employers are legally required to assess the risk of harm to new and expectant mothers. This includes exposure to COVID-19 but also other risks such as chemical exposure, radiation and violence. Please see our pregnancy and maternity toolkit for more information.

If you work for an agency, they should liaise with the host organisation where you are being placed and ensure that both individual and environmental risk assessments are being carried out and that any risk of harm is reduced. 

If your employer hasn’t carried out a pregnancy risk assessment you can use this letter to request an assessment. If after receiving the letter the situation is not resolved, please consider raising your concerns and contact us for support. 

Your employer should take steps to reduce the risk of harm to you and your unborn child and follow government guidelines. If you are concerned with the results of the risk assessment, you should escalate to your Occupational Health Department, your RCN workplace representative, or contact us for advice. Your midwife or GP may also be able to support you.

Our COVID-19 FAQs also contain information on pregnancy.

If your individual or pregnancy risk assessment has indicated that you should be working from home or you are shielding and able to work from home, your employer has a duty to carry out a risk assessment of home working. This should include addressing any risks from working on a computer for long periods.   

If you have not had a home working risk assessment you can use this letter to request one. If it is still not completed then you should escalate your concerns to your Occupational Health Department, your RCN workplace representative or contact us for advice. 

 

COVID-19 FAQs

Find out how to protect yourself, what you should expect from your employer and what to do if you have concerns.

Page last updated - 12/08/2021