Guidance for employers: facilitating employees’ access to coronavirus tests

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted in Employment Law on Thursday, April 8th, 2021

While the vast majority of international travel to and from the UK is currently prohibited in order to protect the country from the spread of coronavirus, employees working in certain jobs may qualify for travel exemptions. This includes those whose work regularly takes them abroad, elite sportspersons, pilots, drivers of goods vehicles and diplomatic workers, among others.

In order to mitigate the risks of such travel, however, even those who qualify for travel exemptions must still quarantine for 10 days upon arrival to the UK and, as of 6 April 2021, must take mandatory coronavirus tests on days two and eight of their quarantine period. For those whose occupations render them exempt from quarantine, a bespoke testing regime must be followed.

Responsibilities for employers

Following its announcement of the new testing requirement, the government published guidance for employers regarding their duty to facilitate employees’ access to testing. The guidance states that employers who fit the following criteria must take ‘reasonable steps’ to help their employees access tests:

• Employers of more than 50 employees, of which some or all are required to take workforce tests, including agency workers for whom they are responsible
• Employers whose employees are required to complete testing after international travel.

What are ‘reasonable steps’?

Taking reasonable steps to ensure your employees’ access to testing might include:

1, Clearly communicating quarantine and testing requirements to employees when they are travelling for work

As of 6 April, there are now several testing regimes for international travellers according to their job and exemption status. You should understand and clearly communicate to employees which testing regime they must follow (day two and day eight testing, or a bespoke regime, for example). They should also understand what they must do if they receive a positive or inconclusive test result.

2, Setting up a workplace testing regime or providing your employee with a home test kit

From 9 April, free twice weekly rapid COVID-19 tests will be available to everybody in England. Many businesses have already been able to benefit from free lateral flow tests, but the government is now extending the offer to companies with over 10 workers where on-site testing is not feasible. Businesses must register their interest for free test kits by 12 April 2021, with tests to be provided free of charge for use in the workplace or at home until 30 June 2021.

3, Facilitating access to testing outside of the workplace.

Due to the imminent expansion of coronavirus testing, employers for whom workplace testing is not appropriate should take steps to direct employees to testing services outside of the workplace and provide time for testing. Free lateral flow COVID-19 tests can now be picked up from community testing centres, participating pharmacies or ordered via the government’s home ordering service.

Helping you understand your responsibilities

While employers must take reasonable steps to facilitate access to testing, they are not actually legally required to monitor employees’ compliance with testing regimes. Even so, at a time when guidance and regulations appear to be changing on a daily basis, consulting a specialist employment lawyer is highly advisable to ensure you are aware of all the duties to which you are currently subject. For sound legal advice, please get it touch with Ahmet Ozcan at ahmet.ozcan@attwaters.co.uk.

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