Guidance: NHS Test and Trace in the workplace

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The government has published the COVID-19 response spring 2021 setting out the roadmap out of the current lockdown for England. This explains how restrictions will be eased over time.

From 12 April 2021 some businesses are permitted to reopen.

The rules on what you need to do when a group enters your venue have changed. You must ask every customer or visitor to scan the NHS QR code using their NHS COVID-19 app, or provide their name and contact details, not just a lead member of the group.

This is to ensure that everyone receives the necessary public health advice in a timely manner.

NHS Test and Trace

NHS Test and Trace:

  • provides free 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 contacts they have had

  • alerts those contacts, where necessary, and instructs them to self-isolate

You are legally obliged to self-isolate as soon as you show symptoms of COVID-19, and must book a test within 5 days. If you get a positive test result, you must self-isolate for 10 days from the day your symptoms started. By self-isolating when told to do so by NHS Test and Trace, you are protecting your family, friends and local community, and helping to stop the spread of the virus.

See further information on how NHS Test and Trace works.

NHS COVID-19 app

The NHS COVID-19 app is an important part of NHS Test and Trace. App users can check symptoms, order a test, receive results and advice and check in to venues. The app sends anonymous alerts if the user has been in close contact with another app user who has tested positive and will notify them that they should self-isolate, thereby helping to break chains of transmission and keep people safe.

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.

Guidance for employers

Its critical that employers take steps to keep workers and visitors safe. By following the COVID secure guidelines, employers can reduce the risk of co-workers having to self-isolate if a member of staff tests positive for COVID-19, or is identified as having had close contact with someone who has tested positive.

Working from home, where possible, is essential to limiting mixing between households. People should work from home, unless it is not reasonable to do so. If necessary, workers can travel for work purposes and stay away from home.

It is vital that employers play their part by:

  • supporting staff to work from home

  • making workplaces as safe as possible (if working from home is not possible)

  • not knowingly allow workers who are required to self-isolate to attend the workplace

  • encouraging employees to download and use the NHS COVID-19 app

Employers must continue to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees and other people in the workplace. This includes, but is not limited to: workers, agency workers, contractors, volunteers, customers, suppliers and other visitors.

Ensuring your workers self-isolate where necessary

It is an offence for you (as an employer) to allow a worker to attend the workplace if you are aware that the worker:

  • has tested positive for COVID-19

  • has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive and they have received a notification to self-isolate from NHS Test and Trace

This NHS guidance sets out how long an individual must self-isolate for.

If you know that a worker has been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, it is your legal duty to not allow them to come into work or work anywhere other than where they are self-isolating (usually, their home) for their full self-isolation period. Failure to do so could result in your firm facing a fine, starting from 1,000.

If a worker has received a notification to self-isolate via the NHS COVID-19 app, they should not attend the workplace as the individual may be infectious and could spread the virus.

Close contacts

A close contact is a person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. You can be a contact anytime from 2 days before the person who tested positive developed their symptoms, and up to 10 days after. This is when the virus can be passed to others.

A contact can be anyone who:

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

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

    • face-to-face contact including being coughed on or having a face-to-face conversation within 1 metre

    • been within 1 metre for 1 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 1 day)

    • travelled in the same vehicle or a plane

NHS Test and Trace will not usually consider someone to be a contact if their interaction with a positive case took place through a Perspex (or equivalent) screen as long as there has been no other contact such as those in the list above.

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

If any of your workers test positive

Employers should call the Self-Isolation Service Hub on 020 3743 6715 as soon as they are made aware that any of their workers have tested positive.

Employers will need to provide the 8-digit NHS Test and Trace Account ID (sometimes referred to as a CTAS number) of the person who tested positive, alongside the names of co-workers identified as close contacts. This will ensure that all workplace contacts are registered with NHS Test and Trace and can receive the necessary public health advice, including the support available to help people to self-isolate.

If workers cannot work from home

If a worker cannot work from home, you:

  • may consider giving them the option to use their paid leave days

  • should pay contractual sick pay, where appropriate

  • must ensure they receive Statutory Sick Pay as a minimum, provided they meet the eligibility criteria

  • should make workers aware of the support available to help them to self-isolate

Employees in self-isolation are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay for every day of work missed for their self-isolation period, provided they meet all the eligibility criteria.

Small and medium employers (with fewer than 250 employees) may be able to reclaim their costs for Statutory Sick Pay. NHS Test and Trace will provide evidence to your employee that they have been told to s

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