The Government’s coronavirus (COVID-19) workplace testing scheme will be widened in the coming weeks, and so eligible employers must register their interest by 12 April.

Why you should test your workforce

Around 1 in 3 people who have COVID-19 are reported not to have any symptoms and so spread the virus without knowing it. For this reason testing employees who do not have symptoms and cannot work from home is considered to be crucial to protect them and to reduce the spread of the disease.

Employers have a statutory duty to risk assess the workplace and to take appropriate measures to eliminate or reduce risks. The widened availability of testing is likely to be regarded as a newly available measure which could significantly protect those in your workplace and so serious consideration should be given to taking up this opportunity as part of your health and safety practice and on-going COVID-19 processes.

Workplace test programme expands

60,000 employers of key workers have already registered to provide rapid tests to their employees serving in the community.

On Sunday, it was announced that all employers with more than 10 employees based in England, and who cannot work from how  will be able to offer employees free, rapid and regular testing which they can do themselves at home.

Employers must register their interest for these free lateral flow tests by 12th April if they want to be able to offer employees the tests either now or in the future.  Find out more about the workplace coronavirus tests at https://www.gov.uk/get-workplace-coronavirus-tests.

Consulting with workers on reducing workplace risks

It is also important to remember that under Health and Safety legislation, employers are required to reduce risks from coronavirus within the workplace and this includes consulting with employees.  If seeking to require employees to participate in workplace testing, then consulting on how it would operate is required so that you can seek agreement and participation.  You can find out more on the risks and how to manage introducing workplace testing in our practical guide on managing a return to work from COVID-19;  download the free guide at https://www.hrsolutions-uk.com/product/return-to-work-guide/.

What will happen next

Tests will be supplied to organisations and employees can collect the tests from their employer with clear instructions on how to complete it. Staff may complete a test twice a week and should get a result within 30 minutes which they should report to the NHS using the details provided.

Remember that employees who have COVID-19 symptoms must stay at home and should arrange for a free PCR test to check for coronavirus.  The lateral flow tests must not be used where the person has symptoms.

Current testing options

Employers are currently encouraged to review their workplaces and to consider implementing work place testing. There are three ways to achieve this:

  • Employer-led: Employers may set up their own testing programme outside of the NHS Test and Trace Service
  • Third-party provider: A private third-party provider may deliver an on-site COVID-19 test service for a fee
  • Community testing: Employers with fewer than 50 employers may access community testing, available at test sites set up by local authorities.
Health and Safety Support

HR Solutions’ Health, Safety and Environment division, called HSE Solutions, provides you with access to a Competent Person to help de-risk your working environment from accidents. To find out more about how our HSE Solutions service can help your business, visit www.hrsolutions-uk.com/health-and-safety or call us on 0844 324 5840.

For information on our Health and Safety training courses visit www.hrsolutions-uk.com/training-courses.