A guide to workplace testing for Covid-19

As the UK prepares for a return to the workplace, it is essential for employers to ensure that their workforce are protected from the risks of Covid-19. Testing all employees for Covid-19 is one way a business can help to reduce the risk of transmission in the workplace, but how feasible is this process for employers?

Employers are free to decide whether they wish to run testing programmes for their workforce. Currently there is no Government guidance in place to require such testing, although the Government has expressed it would like as many employers as possible to sign up to regularly test their employees.

Testing those coming into the workplace can provide a much-needed confidence to employees to help them feel safe in the workplace. Furthermore, testing is a useful tool to protect the business itself, as minimising the risk of a Covid-19 outbreak can aid business continuity.

Employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of employees, including taking the appropriate steps to ensure the workplace is Covid-19 secure. As a result of this, it has been questioned whether an employer can compel employees to take Covid-19 tests as part of the protective measures.

 

Ultimately, if an employee does not agree to being tested, an employer cannot force them to do so. It may be that some employees take the view testing is unnecessary or unreasonable in the circumstances.

 

In certain situations, disciplinary action may be warranted against an employee for refusing to take a test. This would depend on numerous factors such as the nature and environment of their work, and whether the individual has legitimate reasons for refusal. If circumstances arise where disciplinary action is being considered, you should seek further advice before taking action.

As each employer is unique, it is important to consider which testing process best suits business needs. There are currently three options available to employers:

 

Option 1: employer-led set-up

Employers can set up their own on-site testing programmes. Employers can register to order free lateral flow tests for employees here. Employers must register before 31 March 2021.

 

Option 2: third party provider

Another option for employers is to use on-site testing, but have an accredited private provider organise and run this testing on their behalf. A list of providers is available here.

 

Option 3: community testing

For organisations with fewer than 50 employees, access to testing is through local authorities. Testing sites are being established for those without symptoms, with more information available on the relevant local authority website.

 

If an employer does decide to carry out testing, it is recommended that staff are able to access a minimum of two lateral flow tests per week.

If you would like to find out more about the implications of testing your workforce and managing a safe return to the workplace, please get in touch with Rhona Darbyshire or Holly Milne.

 

To find out more about the data protection issues surrounding Covid-19 testing, read our blog on this topic here.