COVID-19: Free workplace testing for all employers
On 6 March 2021, the Government announced that all businesses, regardless of the number of employees, are now able to sign up for its free COVID-19 rapid testing programme.
The testing programme aims to detect the coronavirus in those who are asymptomatic and forms part of the Government’s roadmap to ease restrictions. Businesses are asked to register their interest in receiving free tests for their employees by 31 March 2021, and the tests will be free until 30 June 2021.
At the same time, Acas has updated its “Working safely during coronavirus” guidance (“Guidance”) giving more information for employers. The key points to note are:
1) Workplace testing must not replace the Government’s safe working guidelines;
2) Workplace testing should be agreed with staff, trade unions, or employee representatives; and
3) “Good practice” guidance around what matters should be discussed and agreed.
These discussions may give rise to difficult topics, including around pay for employees who test positive and the use/storage of health information in line with the GDPR. We recommend you take legal advice if any issues arise.
The Guidance also contains a new page dealing with COVID-19 vaccinations, including a section on how to support staff to get the vaccine. It states that, in most circumstances, it is best for employers “to support staff to get the vaccine without making it a requirement”. However, if an employer feels it is important for staff to be vaccinated, they should consult with staff or trade unions, and record any decisions in writing, for example in a policy document.
The issues surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations – and in particular whether staff can be forced to have the vaccine – are not straightforward. For further information, please see our previous update on this topic.
If you need advice on any of these issues, including the GDPR implications and/or the drafting of appropriate workplace policies, please get in touch.
This update is for general purposes and guidance only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. You should seek legal advice before relying on its content. This update relates to the prevailing circumstances at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments. If you have general queries about our updates, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org