On 6March, the Government announced that its rapid workplace testing initiative, which allows employers in England to order free rapid lateral flow tests, would be expanded to cover businesses of all sizes, having previously limited the scheme to businesses employing 50 or more employees.
According to the Government’s web site,[i] ‘’around 1 in 3 people with coronavirus don’t have symptoms, meaning they could be spreading the virus in workplaces without knowing. Rapid testing detects cases quickly – in under 30 minutes – meaning positive cases can isolate immediately, breaking chains of transmission”.
Businesses are encouraged to register interest by 31 March to access workplace testing, which will remain free until the end of June. Health Secretary Matt Hancock recently announced that nearly 50,000 businesses are signed up to offer workplace testing programmes[ii].
Jeya Thiruchelvam, managing editor on the employment law team at XpertHR says, “All businesses in England now have the opportunity to introduce rapid testing if they have employees that can’t work at home, with the aim of firstly, minimising the spread of COVD-19 as lockdown rules are eased, and secondly, normalising testing at work. Remember though that an employer can’t force an employee to take a coronavirus test if they refuse to do so.
“In limited circumstances, taking disciplinary action against an employee who refuses a test might be an option. However, this would depend on factors such as the nature of the employee’s work and the necessity of testing by an employer to protect the health, safety and welfare of its employees, which it is, of course, legally required to do.
“We recommend that when formulating and implementing their workplace testing policy, employers should consult with employee representatives and trade unions. They should also take a sympathetic and constructive approach when communicating with employees about COVID-19 testing. If someone does not wish to be tested, their line manager should listen to their concerns and have a discussion with them about the benefits of testing.
“Our model HR policy is a useful guide to help with the wording of communication to employees, and ensuring firms are compliant, saving HR professionals time as they work hard to get the business back to some normality as lockdown restrictions are eased.”
To view the ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): Workplace testing policy’ click here.
For more information on XpertHR visit: www.xperthr.co.uk