This page was updated on 24 February 2022.
Update: From 24 February 2022, you are no longer legally required to self-isolate if you test positive for COVID-19. Additionally, from 1 April, free universal symptomatic testing for the general public is no longer provided. You can see the settings where this continues to be provided here.
To help employers and businesses manage the emergence of symptomatic staff and confirmed COVID-19 cases in the workplace we have developed a quick-read guide.
Update: From 24 February 2022, you are no longer legally required to self-isolate if you test positive for COVID-19 or are an unvaccinated contact of a positive case. Additionally, from 1 April, free universal asymptomatic testing for the general public is no longer be provided. You can see the settings where this continues to be provided here.
1 in 3 people with coronavirus show no symptoms and could potentially be spreading the virus without knowing. Regular rapid testing increases the chances of finding these cases.
On 17 November 2021, the government updated its guidance to reflect the move from recommending twice-weekly lateral flow testing to a risk-based approach. This means that people who are not exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms are advised to take a rapid lateral flow test if it is expected that there will be a period of high risk that day i.e. if they are visiting crowded and enclosed spaces or visiting people who are at higher risk of severe illness if they were infected with COVID-19. (To help keep essential services running, critical workers in England will be able to take a rapid lateral flow test on every working day and the provision of precautionary testing will be for an initial five weeks).
Rapid lateral flow (LFD) tests can provide results within 30 minutes. A lateral flow test result should be submitted to the national test and trace service regardless if it’s positive or negative - via www.gov.uk/report-covid19-result or by calling 119.
If the test comes back positive, this is a ‘red-light’ that indicates someone is likely to be infectious and they should self-isolate immediately. They should also share with NHS Test and Trace details of anyone they have recently been in contact with, including while at work.
From 11 January 2022 in England, people who receive positive lateral flow device (LFD) test results for COVID-19 will temporarily not be required to take a confirmatory PCR test. (Exceptions apply).
If you test positive you must self-isolate from the day your test was taken if you do not have symptoms and the next 10 full days.
From 17 January 2022 individuals testing positive may be able to leave isolation at the start of day six provided they test negative on both day 5 and day 6 and do not have a temperature.
You can find out more on what you need to do following a positive PCR or LFD test result for coronavirus (COVID-19) on the NHS website.
If you are required to self-isolate, you may be entitled to a one-off payment of £500 through the NHS Test and Trace Support Payment scheme.
Please note that the rules on self-isolation for contacts changed on 16 August 2021. From this date, staff who are fully vaccinated, are not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons, are below the age of 18 years 6 months or have taken part in or are currently part of an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial are no longer required to self-isolate if they have had close contact with a positive case.
Instead, they are advised to take daily lateral flow tests for 7 days or until 10 days since their last contact with the person who tested positive for COVID-19 if this is earlier. If any of these test results are positive, they should self-isolate immediately.
Since 9 April 2021, everyone in England has been able to access free, regular, rapid coronavirus testing. The provision of free asymptomatic testing will end on 1 April 2022. However, the Government will help enable COVID-19 tests to be made available for those who wish to purchase them through the private market.
Until 1 April 2022, everyone in England has the option to:
- Get a rapid lateral flow test at a test site.
Find your nearest rapid lateral flow test site here.
- Get a test to do at home.
You have the option to:
Visit the government website for guidance on how to do a coronavirus (COVID-19) rapid lateral flow test at home
- Get a test through your employer.
Staff and students of schools, colleges or nurseries can get rapid tests through their school, college or nursery (Primary school-age children and younger do not need to test.)
More information on how other employers can offer rapid lateral flow testing to their workforce is available in the next section.
Businesses can no longer order free rapid lateral flow tests for their employees. Alternatively, you can:
- ask your staff to get a rapid lateral flow test to do at home or at a test site on NHS.UK
- purchase your own tests and set up your own workplace testing
- pay an approved third-party private sector provider to provide tests or run a test site for you
Setting up workplace testing
The government has published a supplementary guide for private-sector employers interested in offering workplace testing for asymptomatic employees.
Employers who would prefer an accredited third-party private sector provider to organise and run the testing on their behalf can partner with one of the providers on the list of providers: general testing.
Full guidance for private-sector employers on workplace testing is available on the government website, here.
To help protect employees from COVID-19 and keep businesses open, employers should do their bit and encourage their workers to self-isolate in the event of a positive result. Our guide will take you through the key steps employers should take to enable staff to self-isolate when required to do so, to stop the spread of coronavirus and help restart the economy.
There are some important considerations for any organisation offering staff or volunteers without symptoms coronavirus testing:
- You should ensure that workplace testing is carried out in a safe manner and in an appropriate setting where control measures (e.g. frequent cleaning, good hygiene, adequate ventilation) are in place to manage the risk of COVID-19 spreading during the testing process. There should also be an appropriate setting available for individuals to wait in while their test is processed.
- Anyone with coronavirus symptoms must still book a test through NHS Test and Trace as soon as possible, and self-isolate immediately while waiting for the results and until all clear. Staff (including agency staff) should be supported to self-isolate and sick pay should cover all of the required absence. If staff continue to work when they should be self-isolating, there is an increased risk that they will infect others which could lead to business closures, staff dissatisfaction and reputational damage.
- Anyone testing positive must also feel confident sharing details of people they have recently been close to with NHS Test and Trace. Any reluctance – for example, because of worries of suffering financial hardship or sanctions at work – will undermine the testing programme and everyone’s efforts to stop the virus, protect public services and save lives.
The information provided is meant as a general guide only rather than advice or assurance. GC Business Growth Hub does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information and professional guidance should be sought on all aspects of business planning and responses to the coronavirus. Use of this guide and toolkit are entirely at the risk of the user. Any hyperlinks from this document are to external resources not connected to the GC Business Growth Hub and The Growth Company is not responsible for the content within any hyperlinked site.