Are you inviting employees back to the office soon? Do you want to start implementing Covid testing in the workplace? Read our handy guide to discover the practical and legal issues to consider as an employer.
There’s no legal requirement but the Government is advising employers across all industries to implement Covid testing in the workplace. It can bring many benefits. Apart from the obvious reason of protecting staff, Covid testing can give workers the confidence to return to the office. If you have clients visiting your office, it will also give them confidence.
Can Covid Testing Be Made a Requirement for Staff to Return to the Office?
The Government has not yet made lateral flow tests compulsory even for NHS staff, education staff or care workers.
For an employer to have a mandatory Covid testing policy, they would need to show it was proportionate relative to the risk of transmission in the workplace to avoid the policy being discriminatory.
There are certain workers who may refuse to take the test based on medical or religious reasons, as such employers would need to exempt certain employees from taking the test.
Due to other precautions that can be taken to reduce transmission in the workplace such as social distancing, mask wearing, hand washing and ventilation, it’s likely many employers wouldn’t be able to justify a compulsory Covid testing policy.
Encouraging Staff to Undertake Covid Workplace Testing
Communication is key; indeed it’s a legal requirement as an employer to consult with members of staff concerning health and safety matters in the workplace. It’s wise to start communicating with your employees before implementing any Covid testing.
You may have many staff who are happy to undertake testing to protect themselves and their colleagues. However, a positive result would mean a worker would need to self-isolate along with their household which may cause a financial impact to other members of their household.
To alleviate this impact, as an employer you may choose to offer full pay for any of your workers who are required to self-isolate following Covid testing.
If an employee has a positive test result to a lateral flow test, they will need to self-isolate immediately until they get a result from a PCR test.
The Practicalities of Implementing Workplace Testing
As an employer, you will need to make the testing procedure safe by maintaining social distancing where possible, mask wearing, ventilating the space as much as possible and carrying out adequate and frequent cleaning.
The recommendation from the Government is that those who are tested should be given an appropriate place to go for 30 minutes while they wait for their test result.
Ideally the lateral flow test should be given as soon as your employees arrive at your workplace and then they should be given somewhere to social distance from other colleagues until they receive their result.
If one of your employees receives a positive test result, you are encouraged to contact Public Health England (PHE) and/or your local authority to support contact tracing.
It’s also important to communicate to your staff that lateral flow tests are only for asymptomatic employees. If they have symptoms then they must self-isolate until they get a PCR test.
Data Protection Considerations
The ICO has released recommendations to employers planning to carry out Covid testing which you can read in full (https://ico.org.uk/global/data-protection-and-coronavirus-information-hub/coronavirus-recovery-data-protection-advice-for-organisations/testing/)
For GDPR purposes, Covid testing is considered a special category and as such as an employer you should carry out a data protection assessment prior to testing. You’ll need to be clear with staff about what data is being collected, stored and shared. All data will need to be held securely and confidentially.
Now you’ve read our handy guide to implementing Covid testing in the workplace, have you decided if you will carry it out at your workplace?