There's no law that says staff must be tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) and in most situations it's not necessary.
But some employers might want to bring in testing as part of their workplace policy.
Employers in England have until 12 April 2021 to register to order rapid lateral flow tests for employees on GOV.UK.
If an employer wants to test staff
If an employer wants to test staff for coronavirus, they should first talk with either:
- a recognised trade union or other employee representatives
It's a good idea to discuss:
- how testing would be carried out
- how staff would get their test results
- the process to follow if someone tests positive for coronavirus
- pay if someone needs to self-isolate but cannot work from home
- how someone's absence would be recorded if they need to take time off work
- how testing data will be used, stored and deleted, in line with data protection law (UK GDPR)
Any decision after that discussion should be:
- put in writing, for example in a workplace policy
- made in line with the organisation's existing disciplinary and grievance policy
If the employer cannot reach agreement with staff, it's a good idea to get legal advice before bringing in a testing policy.
If staff are tested, everyone must still:
- follow working safely guidelines
- self-isolate if they have symptoms or test positive for coronavirus
If staff are worried about testing
Staff may not want to get tested because they're worried that if they test positive they will get paid less for being off work, or will get treated differently.
To help reassure staff about being tested, employers could consider changing the way they deal with time off after testing positive for coronavirus. For example:
- keeping staff on their usual rate of pay instead of just paying them sick pay
- putting them on furlough instead of just paying them sick pay
- not counting the time off in their absence record or towards any 'trigger' system the organisation may have
Protecting personal data
Employers must make sure they follow data protection law if they test staff for coronavirus.
To find out more see:
- data protection and testing advice from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO)
- coronavirus testing advice for employers on GOV.UK
Resolving issues about staff testing
If someone does not agree to be tested, the employer should listen to their concerns. It's important for the employer to be flexible and try to find ways to resolve any issues.
It can help for the employer and employee to talk about:
- the reason the employee does not want to get tested
- what might help resolve the issue
- any other options that mean the employee would not need to get tested, for example if they're able to work from home
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