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Managing the emergence of COVID-19 cases in the workplace

Guidance for employers, businesses and workers to manage the risk of transmission in the workplace whilst supporting the NHS test and trace service.

This page was updated on 20 July 2021. 

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As an employer, what is your role in preventing the spread of COVID-19?

There are numerous considerations for employers around the health, safety and wellbeing of their colleagues and customers. 

Businesses should follow the principles set out in the updated working safely guidance, encourage employees to download and use the NHS COVID-19 app and not knowingly allow workers who are required to self-isolate to attend the workplace.

This guide clarifies the actions to take if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the workplace and the steps to take to minimise the spread of infection. 

What should I do if one of my employees tests positive?

If one of your employees receives a positive Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) or lateral flow antigen test (LFDs)*, they should not attend the workplace and should self-isolate immediately for a period of 10 full days after their test result or the start of symptoms. 

*A positive LFD test result should be followed by ordering a PCR test. If the confirmatory PCR is taken within two days and is negative your employee will be able to stop isolating.

  • As an employer, you should enable your employees to self-isolate when required to do so. For the latest rules on self-isolation and a series of key actions you should take visit our guide.
Supporting self-isolation due to coronavirus – a guide for business
  • If an employee tests positive you should immediately determine if there are any close workplace contacts and advise them to self-isolate for 10 days. You should not wait for NHS Test and Trace. This prompt action will help reduce the risk of a workplace outbreak.

    However, 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. 

  • If you have identified contacts call the Self-Isolation Service Hub on 020 3743 6715 as soon as possible. You will be required to provide the 8-digit NHS Test and Trace Account ID (sometimes referred to as a CTAS number) of the person who tested positive, alongside the names of the colleagues who have been identified as close contacts. This will ensure that all workplace contacts are registered with NHS Test and Trace and can receive the necessary public health advice, including the support available to help people to self-isolate.
  • You should record and keep a minimum dataset on staff absences in case this information is required for outbreak management purposes 
  • You should also undertake environmental cleaning as per the published guidance.
  • As an employer and depending on the circumstances of how an employee contracted COVID-19, you may also be required to complete a RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013). Check out this HSE guidance on RIDDOR reporting for more information. 

You do not need to contact PHE or your Local Authority about a single case, but if you have any concerns or queries please contact your local team’s single point of contact SPOC using the contact details provided further down this guide. 

For more information on how to manage multiple COVID-19 cases or outbreaks in the workplace, visit the government's Working Safely during coronavirus guides for sector-specific guidance. 

Public Health England North West has also developed a resource pack including a series of useful checklists and templates to help you manage suspected cases, a single confirmed case as well as multiple confirmed cases and possible outbreaks.

Download workplace resource pack

How is a ‘contact’ defined?

Government guidance states that a contact is a person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. An individual can be a contact any time from 2 days before the person who tested positive developed their symptoms (or, if they did not have any symptoms, from 2 days before the date their positive test was taken), and up to 10 days after.

A contact can be anyone: 

  • living in the same household as someone with COVID-19 symptoms or who has tested positive for COVID-19
  • who has had any of the following types of contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 test:
    • Face-to-face contact at a distance of less than 1 metre
    • Been within 1 metre for one minute or longer without face-to-face contact
    • Been within 2 metres of someone for more than 15 minutes (either as a one-off contact or added up together over one day)
    • Travelled in a car or small vehicle with someone 
    • Sat close to someone on a plane

Interaction between 2 people having taken place through a Perspex (or equivalent) screen, will not be considered sufficient contact, provided that there has been no other contact. 

How can I best support contact tracing in the workplace?

To support contact tracing, employers could consider introducing shift bubbles or shift buddies, if possible. This means asking staff to work in pairs, or very small numbers (bubbles), so you can keep tabs on exactly who they have been in close contact with. 

If you have clients or customers visiting your site, you could also create a written log of their details when they arrive and list the members of staff with who they will be meeting with. Businesses are also able to display NHS QR posters to allow customers and visitors to "check-in" using the NHS COVID-19 App

Displaying QR codes for customers to check in using the NHS COVID-19 app or collecting customer contact details is no longer a legal requirement for certain sectors including hospitality, close contact services, tourism and leisure and places of worship. However, doing so will support NHS Test and Trace and help stop the spread of the virus. In the event of an outbreak linked to a venue, that is 2 or more COVID-19 cases on the same day, individuals who checked in to the venue on the same day will receive a venue alert advising them to book a test. Your venue will not be named in the alert and there will not be a requirement to self-isolate unless the individual alerted tests positive for COVID-19.  

Employers can access guidance on maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors for contact tracing purposes through the government's website.  

Employers can also encourage their staff to download and use the NHS COVID-19 app. Contact tracing should be left on as much as possible but it should be paused in certain instances (e.g. when the phone is stored in a locker or when a worker operates behind a fixed Perspex or equivalent screen). 

Support available

 

Businesses can seek contact tracing advice and guidance locally through the GM Integrated Contact Hub by emailing gmhscp.contacttracing@nhs.net or via their Local Authority:

You can contact your local team’s single point of contact (SPOC):

Bolton

Covid19contacttracing@bolton.gov.uk

Bury

infectioncontrolprevention@bury.gcsx.gov.uk

Manchester

mft.central.coordinationcentre@nhs.net

Oldham

covid.trace@oldham.gov.uk

Rochdale

infectioncontroldutydesk@rochdale.gov.uk

Salford

PHSecretary@salford.gov.uk

Stockport

contact.tracing@stockport.gov.uk

Tameside

covid-19@tameside.gov.uk

Trafford

covidtrace@trafford.gov.uk

Wigan

contact.tracing@wigan.gov.uk


For the most up-to-date national guidance visit the government website.

NHS Test and Trace in the workplace

Do I need to close my business if someone tests positive for COVID-19?

Your business does not need to close if someone tests positive, but you should follow this cleaning advice to reduce the risk of the disease spreading to other employees:

  • Once the employee has left the building, sanitise your workplace with disinfectant – wear disposable gloves and aprons whilst doing so.
  • After use, double-bag the gloves and aprons, then store them securely for 72 hours before throwing them away in your regular rubbish.
  • Use a disposable cloth, and begin by cleaning hard surfaces with soapy water, followed by disinfectant.
  • Pay close attention to frequently touched areas, such as door handles, grab rails in corridors and stairwells, and lift buttons.
  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after removing any PPE used whilst cleaning.

Further guidance relating to general principles of cleaning during the COVID-19 pandemic and cleaning a work place/area where a person with suspected or confirmed Coronavirus has been can be seen through the government page on cleaning in non-healthcare settings outside the home. 

If you don’t feel comfortable cleaning yourself, you can enlist the services of a professional cleaning company to give your premises a deep clean. Aspire Recruitment, the Growth Company’s in-house recruitment agency, have partnered with a specialist cleaning company to offer deep-cleaning services to businesses of all shapes and sizes across Greater Manchester. Find out more about booking a deep clean here.

 

More information is available on the UK Government’s Coronavirus Business Support website. For more personalised advice call us on: 0161 237 4128 or email us at: BGH@growthco.uk

 

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.

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