Employers encouraged to test asymptomatic employeesSimon Mayberry
The Government has created a service to allow employers to order Covid-19 rapid lateral flow testing kits for their employees. Employers registered in England and who have 50 or more employees who, critically, cannot work from home, can apply online to receive testing kits for asymptomatic workers. Those who display symptoms of Covid-19 are required to stay at home and encouraged to order an individual PCR test themselves through the Government website here.
Data quoted by the Government shows that one in three people with Covid-19 do not display symptoms. This new approach is designed to try to find these cases earlier and, by so doing, prevent transmission. The tests will give results in 30 minutes and therefore allow positive cases to be identified quickly and then isolated.
There is currently no similar system of testing of asymptomatic individuals in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Guidance from each of the devolved administrations can be found here, but for the time being it appears that outside of England testing is only available for those with symptoms. Different rules will apply to frontline health workers and others in similar roles.
What does this mean in terms of compulsory testing in the workplace? While the availability of testing does not equate to an obligation to test asymptomatic workers, it does make it easier for employers to do so. While it is clear that a number of individuals, for a variety of reasons, may object to vaccination, there is less of a clear objection to testing. As such, employers who do decide to make testing compulsory will be less likely to see push back from their workers.
It is clearly prudent to have a robust business case for making testing compulsory, in order to show that the decision was reasoned in advance and not simply made on a whim. It would be wise to consider whether testing will be a benefit and, if so, which employees (and in which roles) should be tested. Well thought-out decisions made in advance and based on a robust assessment of the facts are, without exception, the best way for employers to approach this kind of decision.
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