Guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): employer testing duty

If you are an employer that requires staff to travel regularly across UK borders, you must take reasonable steps to facilitate your employees to take tests.

To help protect the country from coronavirus (COVID-19), there are testing regimes in place for those who travel regularly across UK borders. If you are an employer that fulfils the following definition, then you must take reasonable steps to facilitate the taking of tests by your employees:

  • you employ more than 50 employees, of which some or all are required to take workforce tests, including agency workers you are responsible for
  • your employees are required to complete testing after international travel

As an employer your ‘reasonable steps’ to facilitate the taking of tests might be:

  • establishing workplace coronavirus (COVID-19) testing or providing your employee with home testing
  • supporting access and signposting employees to testing outside of the workplace

Background

Under the existing managed quarantine scheme, a small number of international arrivals are exempt from quarantine or self-isolation. These exempt individuals must still comply with other domestic coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions after arrival.

Most exemptions nevertheless require individuals to quarantine when not conducting the activity for which they are exempt, although this is not required where this would effectively require permanent quarantine.

From 6 April 2021, all international arrivals must complete day 2 and 8 testing for international arrivals or a bespoke testing regime for arrivals exempt from quarantine and seasonal agricultural workers, unless they are domestic sea fishers actively working or foreign diplomats and others benefiting from Privileges and Immunities (P&I) in the UK.

You should check this list of jobs to find out whether you or your employees qualify for an exemption from quarantine and whether they must follow a bespoke testing regime or day 2 and day 8 testing for international arrivals.

What counts as ‘reasonable steps’

Employers covered by the duty must support their employees in accessing testing for the 10 days after their employees arrive.

Employers should provide tests or testing facilities in the workplace (including NHS Test and Trace testing delivery) or take reasonable steps to facilitate testing outside the workplace for relevant employees.

As an employer your reasonable steps to facilitate the taking of tests could include:

Employers should strongly encourage their employees to complete the bespoke testing regimes but are not required to monitor that their employees are completing the test. Employers running workplace testing pilots may still need to report test completion rates.

Communicating testing requirements to your workforce when they are travelling for work

You should clearly communicate to your employees the requirement for international arrivals exempt from quarantine to follow a bespoke testing regime or day 2 and day 8 testing for international arrivals.

Your employees may need help understanding which testing regime they need to follow. You can direct them to the guidance on travel exemptions.

You must also explain what happens if international arrivals are required to follow a bespoke testing regime or day 2 and day 8 testing for international arrivals:

  • Receive a positive test result: If they test positive they must self-isolate for a period of 10 days from the day after they take the test – they will receive further advice alongside their test results. Their household will also be required to self-isolate. If they are following bespoke testing using lateral flow tests they will be required to take a follow-up (PCR) test which will be genome sequenced for variant surveillance

  • Receive an inconclusive or void test result: they must take another test as soon as practically possible

  • Do not complete the required tests: If they do not take the tests they could face a penalty of up to £2,000 and could be required to quarantine

Putting in place workplace testing

Employers may wish to put in place workplace testing, which will be available to all employers where the workforce cannot work from home.

If you would like to set up workplace testing, you should read the information on how to plan and deliver testing. You may choose to:

Set up an asymptomatic testing centre

You will need to plan and deliver the establishment and staffing of your Asymptomatic Test Sites, ensuring that you understand any associated costs. You will need to register on the portal and order the appropriate number of tests, which are available in packs of 25 for this purpose. Once received, lateral flow devices (LFDs) and reagents must be stored between 2˚C and 30˚C.

Employees being tested enter their personal details and test kit barcode each time they’re tested. Employees can create accounts that save their details, so that they do not need to enter them the next time they get tested. Registration may take up to 15 minutes per employee depending on the questions that they have to answer for their circumstance, their digital literacy, and whether they have an existing NHS account.

The Test and Trace systems will link the employee’s registration record with their test result. Results will be sent to the employee via SMS and/or email and will be communicated within a day of the test. If employees have registered online and do not receive their results within a day of the test, they should retest again and ensure their contact details are correct. Test results are also reported to Test and Trace, their local GP and Public Health England (PHE).

If an employee tests positive they must, by law, immediately self-isolate. They should share information promptly about their recent contacts when they are contacted by NHS Test and Trace, so that Test and Trace can alert those contacts if they need to self-isolate. International arrivals will be required to take a follow-up (PCR) test which will be genome sequenced for variant surveillance which they should order from the NHS Test and Trace portal. If you then receive PCR result within 3 days and it is negative this is rescinded, and you do not have to self-isolate.

As an employer you are responsible for acting if one of your employees informs you, they have received a positive result. The employee must contact PHE and/or your local authority to seek guidance or support contact tracing. If you (or someone you have engaged) carries out the test on an employee, then it is you who has the duty to notify PHE of the result.

Provide your employees with home tests

You will need to register on the portal and order the appropriate number of tests. Once received, lateral flow devices (LFDs) and reagents must be stored between 2˚C and 30˚C.

Employees will take their test kits home. They enter their personal details and test kit barcode each time they’re tested. Employees can create accounts that save their details, so that they do not need to enter them the next time they get tested. Registration may take up to 15 minutes per employee depending on the questions that they have to answer for their circumstance, their digital literacy, and whether they have an existing NHS account.

The Test and Trace systems will link the employee’s registration record with their test result. Results will be sent to the employee via SMS and/or email and will be communicated within a day of the test. If employees have registered online and do not receive their results within a day of the test, they should retest again and ensure their contact details are correct. Test results are also reported to Test and Trace, their local GP and Public Health England (PHE).

If an employee tests positive they must, by law, immediately self-isolate. They should share information promptly about their recent contacts when they are contacted by NHS Test and Trace, so that Test and Trace can alert those contacts if they need to self-isolate. International arrivals will be required to take a follow-up (PCR) test which will be genome sequenced for variant surveillance which they should order from the NHS Test and Trace portal. If you then receive PCR result within 3 days and it is negative this is rescinded, and you do not have to self-isolate.

As an employer you are responsible for acting if one of your employees informs you they have received a positive result. The employee must contact PHE and/or your local authority to seek guidance or support contact tracing.

Supporting testing outside of the workplace

Where workplace testing is not appropriate, employers should support the employee in testing by signposting to, and providing appropriate time for testing.

Employees following bespoke testing regimes can access a service on the gov.uk website which allows employees to enter their postcode, and then be directed to their local authority’s website/webpage detailing how they can access tests.

Employees can access testing through:

  • undertaking tests at a local authority testing site or selected NHS Test and Trace testing sites

  • collecting tests from community testing sites and NHS Test and Trace testing sites. Employees can pick up 2 packs of 7 rapid lateral flow self-test kits. The sites distribute LFTs to eligible individuals between 1pm and 8pm daily

  • ordering a home testing kit if they cannot go to a site for testing or collect a test kit from a site to conduct at home. If they are eligible, but unable to order online, they can call 119 (Lines are open 7am to 11pm and calls are free). Employees should not use this pathway if they can get a test through other methods. This frees up home delivery for those who need it most

Drivers and crew of HGVs, LGVs and vans required to follow the bespoke testing regimes can also take a coronavirus (COVID-19) test at any haulier advice site.

Employers of seasonal agricultural workers

Employers of seasonal agricultural workers should ensure employees are supported to access testing without leaving the farm. Employers should therefore establish workplace testing, collect relevant tests from community testing sites or support their employees to access home order testing.

Published 28 March 2021