The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has published guidance for employers and third-party healthcare providers in England on COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. The guidance provides information about the types of testing available and the relevant legal obligations. Equivalent guidance for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will follow.
On 10 September 2020, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) published guidance for employers on COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. The guidance advises employers wanting to test non-symptomatic staff against using NHS Test and Trace, and to consider private alternatives. However, there is no obligation on employers to run testing programmes.
The guidance provides information about the types of testing available, as well as summarising relevant legal obligations (including when using apps) in Annex A. The following sections will be of particular interest to employers:
  • Before deciding to test staff. Employers are advised, among other things, to consider the scope of any testing programme (for example, whether contractors will be tested), the frequency of testing, arrangements for individuals who refuse to be tested and how test results will be used.
  • Communicating the intention to test staff. Employers are advised that any communications should be transparent and outline how any testing programme will operate in practice. Employers are “strongly advised” to consult with staff associations or unions before implementing any policy. They are also reminded of the need to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation ((EU) 2016/679) and the Data Protection Act 2018, by ensuring that all data is processed lawfully, fairly and transparently and that staff are aware of how their personal data will be used, shared and kept.
  • Contact tracing staff. The guidance anticipates that, although not compulsory, employers may want to introduce internal tracing systems alongside testing programmes. It states that any individual who has been identified as a contact by an internal tracing system, but not by NHS Test and Trace, will not qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). Provision should be made for them to work from home where possible. If this is not possible, the guidance advises that the individual may remain entitled to full pay unless their employment contract provides otherwise. Individuals do not have to self-isolate unless they are contacted by NHS Test and Trace but are advised to avoid contact with those at “high increased risk” of severe illness resulting from COVID-19.
The guidance also provides information on how to communicate test results and with whom, and what employers can and cannot do with the results. It encourages employers to keep staff informed about potential or confirmed COVID-19 cases but advises that individuals should not be named. The guidance applies to England only, but it states that “equivalent guidance” will be published for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

 

Original article ‘COVID-19: DHSC publishes hew guidance for employers on COVID-19 testing‘ Written and Published by Practical Law Employment

 

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