COVID testing in the workplace
Around 1 in 3 people with coronavirus don’t have symptoms, which means they could be spreading the virus in the workplaces without knowing. Rapid testing detects cases quickly – in under 30 minutes – meaning positive cases can isolate immediately, breaking the chain of transmission.
All local authorities are now offering rapid lateral flow testing for small businesses if they can’t offer rapid workplace testing. You can find your local test site here: https://www.gov.uk/find-covid-19-lateral-flow-test-site
Why should you test your workforce?
The expansion of workplace testing will identify more positive cases of COVID-19 and ensure that those infected, isolate. This will reduce the spread of the virus and protect those who cannot work from home and our vital services. It is a voluntary decision for employers to run testing programmes for their staff. Testing can provide confidence to workers and customers in the workplace, helping to protect and enable business continuity.
Testing is not a replacement for other important measures such as social distancing, good personal and workplace hygiene and optimal ventilation which should also be used stop the spread of the virus.
Lateral flow testing
Lateral flow testing is a fast and simple way to test people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19 but who may still be spreading the virus. The tests are easy to use and give results in less than 30 minutes. Those who test positive must immediately self-isolate to avoid passing the virus on to others.
How often to test
It is recommended that private-sector employers offer their workforce who are on site access to a minimum of 2 tests per week, this should be adjusted if you are operating a hybrid of working from home/working from site and based on your risk of contact with others e.g. how many clients, customers they come into contact with, their potential vulnerability and the risks identified in your COVID 19 risk assessment.
Options for workforce testing
Option 1 – employer led set up (“DIY”)
Employers can set up their own testing programme, scaled appropriately to their size of organisation, number of employees and working arrangements.
Option 2 – use a third party
There are accredited third party providers who can provide and run on site testing services. Employers will need to pay the third party for this service and the onus will fall on the employer to order the kits.
Option 3 – community testing
Access to testing sites organised by local authorities.
Advice for setting up testing
Communicate – to combat lack of awareness, the purpose, process and outcome of testing should be clearly communicated.
Set up – if testing on site consider privacy needs
Ordering and storing kits – you can order kits once you have registered, lateral flow devices (LFD’s) must be stored between 15-30 degrees Celsius, kept out of direct sunlight and have a shelf life of 24 months from the date of manufacturer.
Testing staff and reporting results
Participants are required to enter their personal details and test kit barcode each time they’re tested and are encouraged to use their own mobile devices.
Participants do not have to legally share their test results directly with their employers, however they are obliged to inform their organisation if they test positive. If employers want participants to share their results they are responsible for gaining consent under GDPR regulations and test results .
If a member of staff tests positive they must by law self-isolate for 10 days of the date of the test.
Communicating results to workforce
Employers are encouraged to keep the workforce informed of cases but should not name individuals or share personal data.
Reporting test results
Organisations are responsible for taking action if one of their participants informs them they have received a positive result. They will be encouraged to contact Public Health England and/or their local authority to seek guidance or support contact tracing.
An online portal (https://www.gov.uk/get-workplace-coronavirus-tests) has been launched for businesses to find out more information and to be able to plan and deliver their testing programme. If you launch workplace testing you need to review your COVID 19 risk assessment to reflect this.
If you need any further advice please get in touch