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Test and Trace: New guidance for employers

Big Data / 29 May 2020

The Government’s coronavirus NHS test and trace service have launched today with the aim of containing and controlling the outbreak.  On 27 May 2020, the government published new guidance on the NHS test and trace service for employers, businesses and workers which explains how employers and businesses can cooperate with the test and trace programme.  It should be read in conjunction with the separate “Working safely during coronavirus” guidance which we previously updated you on here.

We have summarised the key points for employers below:

1.    The guidance states that it is vital for employers to:

—   Make their workplaces as safe as possible; and

—  Encourage workers to heed any notifications to self-isolate and support them when in isolation.

Whilst encouraging workers to self-isolate will be disruptive for those employers whose workers cannot work from home, it will be less disruptive than an outbreak occurring in the workplace.

2.   Workers will be told to self-isolate when they:

—  Have coronavirus symptoms and are awaiting a test result;

—  Have tested positive for coronavirus;

—  Are a member of the same household as someone who has symptoms or has tested positive for coronavirus; or

—  Have been in close recent contact with someone who has tested positive and received a notification to self-isolate from NHS test and trace.

3.  To support workers in self-isolation, employers should maintain good communication and allow them to work from home if they remain well and if it is practicable to do so.  This might include finding alternative work that can be completed at home.

4.  If self-isolating workers cannot work from home, employers must ensure they receive statutory sick pay (“SSP”) or give the option to use holiday (on full pay).

5.  Entitlement to SSP has been extended (under new Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2020 which come into force on 28 May 2020) to people who have been told to self-isolate under the test and trace system.  The NHS test and trace service will provide a notification that can be used as evidence that someone has been told to self-isolate.

6.  Employers must continue to follow health and safety workplace guidance for their sector such as:

—  Making “every reasonable effort” to enable working from home as a first option;

—  Where working from home is not possible, identifying sensible measures to control the risks in the workplace; and

—  Keeping the workplace clean, maintaining safe working separation, and preventing transmission through unnecessary touching of potentially contaminated surfaces.

In addition, employers should remember that test and trace depends on the collection, use and storage of personal data. Employers’ obligations under the GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018 continue to apply during the pandemic. In particular, employers should be aware of the increased risks of data security incidents due to increased home working caused by test and trace, and the stricter requirements which apply to the collection and use of health data.

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