Coronavirus and Workplace Testing
The Government are encouraging businesses to sign up for free lateral flow tests.
Coronavirus and Workplace Testing. On Saturday 6 March 2021 the Government announced that all employers with staff who cannot work from home, e.g. retail, manufacturing, health and social care, etc, are being offered the opportunity to set up their own workforce testing using Lateral Flow Tests to routinely test their workers so that employers can continue to make sure their businesses remain COVID safe for all staff and customers.
Updated guidance is released regularly and I will update this page as more details are announced.
This page was firstly published on 8 March 2021 and the last update was 29 March 2021.
Once registered businesses owners will be invited to an one hour introductory webinar which will explain in detail everything they will need to know about setting up a testing site, as well as the relevant documents, terms and conditions they will need to get signed before ordering test equipment. The test kits will be provided free of charge until 30 June 2021.
The government has published workplace testing guidance for employers setting out the options for workforce testing, alongside more practical setting-up advice. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has also provided advice on testing staff for COVID-19.
What is a lateral flow test?
A lateral flow device uses a test paper that changes colour if a sample taken from the throat and nose indicates that COVID-19 is present. After the swab from the tester is put into a special solution, it is transferred to the lateral flow device with the result becoming visible after 30 minutes.
Lateral flow tests are less sensitive than polymerase chain reaction tests (which require a laboratory) in determining whether someone has COVID-19 but they do work particularly well for individuals with a high viral load who are as a result at the most infectious stage of COVID-19.
Why is the Government encouraging lateral flow testing in the workplace?
The main reason the Government is encouraging businesses to use the lateral flow testing is that one in three people can have COVID-19 without displaying any symptoms. So the benefit is that cases which otherwise have undetected are identified and the individual can then isolate, thus avoiding a full-blown workplace outbreak.
What does lateral flow testing cost
The Government has given businesses until 12 April 2021 to register for a supply of test kits, which will be provided without charge until 30 June 2021. While the tests are free, employers will still need to cover the staffing costs of setting up and organising their own on-site testing or using the services of a third-party provider to run the testing on their behalf. There will also need to be a dedicated space in which to conduct testing with appropriate privacy.
The government has published a list of approved COVID-19 test providers if organisations wish to partner with a third party to organise their workplace testing.
The introduction of lateral flow testing in the workplace does not mean that other measures can be reduced.
UPDATE 29 MARCH 2021
Home Test Kits Now Available
The Government’s COVID-19 testing programme has now been expanded to include rapid lateral flow test kits which employees can use at home.
In an expansion of the scheme rolled out at the beginning of March, the Government has now announced that home testing kits will be made available for companies where on-site testing is not possible. This may be the case for firms who do not have adequate office space to carry out testing or because the company operates across multiple sites.
Employers who have over 10 workers will be eligible for this scheme and will order the tests online to distribute amongst their employees. Workers will be responsible for collecting the test from their employer with clear instructions about how to take the test.
As is the case for on-site testing, workers will have access to lateral flow tests which have the ability to detect coronavirus in 30 minutes. The Government has said this will allow swift detection of cases, meaning workers who test positive can isolate immediately which will break chains of transmission.
The Government has encouraged businesses to sign up before the 12th April in order to access free tests until the end of June, even if their premises are not yet open or are not able to start using the tests straight away.
In cases where employers have less than 10 employees, the Government encourages workers to access regular testing through the community testing programme which is now offered by all local authorities in England.
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