Detailed guide: NHS Test and Trace in the workplace

A new national lockdown came into force across England on Wednesday 6 January. You must stay at home. The single most important action we can all take is to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives. Read more about what you can and cannot do during the national lockdown.

NHS Test and Trace:

  • provides testing for anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus to find out if they have the virus
  • gets in touch with anyone who has had a positive test result to help them share information about any close recent contacts they have had
  • alerts those contacts, where necessary, and notifies them they need to self-isolate to help stop the spread of the virus

By following instructions to self-isolate, people who have had close recent contact with someone with coronavirus will be protecting their family, friends, colleagues and other people around them, and will play a direct role in stopping the spread of the virus.

See further information on how NHS Test and Trace works.

This guidance explains how employers and businesses can support NHS Test and Trace and play their part to slow the spread of the virus, protect the health and care system and save lives.

The NHS COVID-19 app is an important part of NHS Test and Trace and enhances the contact tracing process by enabling users with a compatible smartphone to check symptoms, order tests and receive results and advice. The app will also provide alerts to self-isolate if a user has been in close contact of a confirmed case. This will help to break chains of transmission, keep people safe, and avoid the need for further societal and economic restrictions.

Guidance for employers

Its critical that employers take steps to keep workers and visitors safe. By following the sector-specific guidance, employers can reduce the risk of co-workers having to self-isolate if a member of staff tests positive for COVID-19.

Working from home, where possible, is essential to limiting contacts between households. Its recommended that people continue to work from home, unless its not reasonably possible to do so.

If you need to leave your home to carry out your usual work duties you can do so. If necessary, you can also travel for work purposes and stay away from home.

It is vital that employers play their part by:

  • making their workplaces as safe as possible (where working from home is not possible)
  • supporting their workers when in self-isolation

It is a legal requirement for employers to not knowingly allow an employee who has been told to self-isolate to come into work or work anywhere other than their own home for the duration of their self-isolation period. Failure to do so could result in a fine starting from 1,000.

NHS Test and Trace will support businesses and economic recovery by:

  • providing free testing for anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus
  • asking those that test positive and their close contacts to self-isolate to stop the spread of the virus in the workplace
  • enabling the government to safely lift lockdown measures

Employers (and the self-employed) must continue to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees. They also have similar obligations in respect of other people, for example agency workers, contractors, volunteers, customers, suppliers and other visitors.

Workplace risk

Employers must review risk assessments to ensure they remain suitable and sufficient. Where COVID-19 is a risk in the workplace, it must form part of the risk assessment.

The Health and Safety Executive has published guidance to help you conduct a risk assessment.

Employers have a duty to consult their workers, and unions where applicable, as part of their risk assessment. Involving workers in this will help build trust and confidence that all reasonably practicable steps are being taken to reduce risks of COVID-19, so that people can return to work safely. Employers should share the risk assessment with workers and consider publishing the risk assessment on their website.

If a worker develops symptoms and orders a test

If a worker develops symptoms, they should request a free test as soon as their symptoms start.

Once they have ordered the test, theyll be asked by NHS Test and Trace to provide details of anyone who they have been in close recent contact with. This will not automatically be all their co-workers, but anyone who meets the definition of a close contact.

A close contact is a person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 with apolymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. You can be a contact anytime from 2 days before the person who tested positive developed their symptoms, and up to 10 days after, as this is when they can pass the infection on to others.

A close contact can be:

  • anyone who lives in the same household as someone with COVID-19 symptoms or who has tested positive for COVID-19

  • anyone who has had any of the following types of contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 with aPCRtest:

    • face-to-face contact including being coughed on or having a face-to-face conversation within one metre

    • been within one metre for one minute or longer without face-to-face contact

    • sexual contacts

    • been within 2 metres of someone for more than 15 minutes (either as a one-off contact, or added up together over one day)

    • travelled in the same vehicle or a plane

An interaction through a Perspex (or equivalent) screen with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 is not usually considered to be a close contact, as long as there has been no other contact such as those in the list above.

The contact tracers will not consider the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) as a mitigation when assessing whether a recent contact is likely to have risked transmitting the virus. Only full medical-grade PPE worn in health and care settings will be considered.

Medical-grade PPE should not be purchased to circumvent self-isolation, as this risks disrupting critical supplies needed by the NHS and social care sector.

Alerting close contacts

When someone first develops symptoms and orders a test, they will be encouraged to alert the people that they have had close contact with in the 48 hours before symptom onset. If any of those close contacts are co-workers, the person who has developed symptoms should consider asking their employer to alert those co-workers.

Close contacts at this stage do not need to self-isolate unless requested to do so by NHS Test and Trace or a public health professional, but they should:

  • avoid contact with people at high increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus, such as people with pre-existing medical conditions
  • take extra care in practising social distancing and good hygiene
  • watch out for symptoms and self-isolate if they also show signs of coronavirus

Employers may need to keep staff informed about COVID-19 cases among their colleagues. However, employers should not name the individual. If a co-worker is at risk because of close contact with the positive case, then they will be notified to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. Employers should make sure their workplaces are safe by regular cleaning and by encouraging good hygiene practice.

If the test is positive

If the person with symptoms tests positive for COVID-19, NHS Test and Trace will notify their close contacts and instruct them to self-isolate.

This will occur by either a phone call, text message, email or letter. The period of self-isolation will be for 10 days from the point of most recent contact with the person who has tested positive for coronavirus. It is important for all con



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