Workplace testing for coronavirus (COVID-19)

There's no law that says staff must be tested for coronavirus (COVID-19), but some employers might want to bring in testing as part of their workplace policy.

If an employer wants to test staff

If an employer wants to test staff for COVID-19, they should first discuss and agree a policy with:

  • staff
  • 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 COVID-19
  • whether staff would need to self-isolate
  • if staff need to self-isolate, in what circumstances they'll need to do this and how long for
  • pay if someone self-isolates 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 guidelines on:

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 COVID-19. For example:

  • keeping staff on their usual rate of pay 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 COVID-19.

Read COVID-19 testing guidance 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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