More than a quarter of vulnerable people shielding from coronavirus have lost most of their income, according to new research from Citizens Advice.
The charity has warned that many people who have shielded because they are considered at high risk from the virus face a “catch-22” situation as their incomes plummet.
It said it has supported thousands of workers with underlying health conditions, and their family members, who have not been able to access the Government furlough programme.
Government guidance says that employees who are shielding can be furloughed, however, companies are not obliged to furlough staff considered “extremely clinically vulnerable”.
Citizens Advice said its analysis of around 2,000 of all employment cases it has seen since April 14 showed over 70% of those shielding or at higher risk from the virus have not been furloughed.
It also said the research revealed that 27% of people in the shielded group said they have lost at least 60% of their income, while 41% said they have lost at least 20% since the outbreak began.
The figures also suggested that 12% of people in the shielded group have worked outside of their homes to keep money coming in, despite potential risks to their health.
Debbie Nolan, health programme lead at Citizens Advice Liverpool, coordinates calls with people in the shielded group to check on their wellbeing.
She said: “We’ve seen a surge in concerns about health and safety over the past two weeks as people with serious medical conditions, and those they live with, are asked to return to work.
“What’s most worrying is that some people go quiet when you ask them how shielding is going. At that point you start to realise they’re not shielding at all.
“The shielded are still going to work because they’re worried their boss will let them go if they speak up.”
Dame Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The Government’s extraordinary interventions have protected millions of jobs and incomes, but some of the most vulnerable have still fallen through the safety net.
“We’re already seeing worrying cases of people being caught in a catch-22 where they have been denied furlough and asked to work in direct contradiction of public health advice.
“We fear the situation could worsen as more workplaces reopen.”