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Guidance for employers on NHS Test and Trace

23 July 2020

Government guidance on the NHS Test and Trace service in the workplace includes a new section on collecting customer and visitor data and information on if a worker develops symptoms and orders a test.

It is critical that employers take steps to keep workers and visitors safe. By following the 5 steps for working safely, along with 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.

The NHS Test and Trace service does not change existing guidance that employees should work from home wherever possible.

It is vital that employers play their part by:

  • making their workplaces as safe as possible (where working from home is not possible)
  • requesting that workers self-isolate if they have been asked to do so
  • supporting their workers when in isolation

Although this may seem disruptive for businesses, it is less disruptive than an outbreak of COVID-19 in the workplace, and far less disruptive than further social and economic restrictions.

The NHS Test and Trace service 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 go further in safely lifting 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
COVID-19 is a new 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, they’ll be asked by the NHS Test and Trace service 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 anytime from 2 days before the person was symptomatic up to 7 days from onset of symptoms (this is when they are infectious to others). This could be a person who:

  • spends significant time in the same household
  • is a sexual partner
  • has had face-to-face contact (within one metre), including: being coughed on
  • having skin-to-skin physical contact, or
    contact within one metre for one minute
  • has been within 2 metres of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes
  • has travelled in a small vehicle, or in a large vehicle or plane
  • Where an interaction between 2 people has taken place through a Perspex (or equivalent) screen, this would not be considered sufficient contact, provided that there has been no other contact such as any of those indicated above.

The contact tracers will not consider the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) as 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.

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