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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 12 April 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 do their bit and support staff to work from home, ensure their workplace is COVID-secure, 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 will be required to self-isolate immediately for a period of 10 full days after their test result or the start of symptoms. Their close contacts will also be required to isolate for 10 full days after the last contact with the index case.

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

  • As an employer, you should enable your employees to self-isolate when required to do so and a series of key actions you should take is available through our guide.
Supporting self-isolation due to coronavirus – a guide for business
  • If an employee tests positive you should record the absence and determine if there are any workplace contacts and advise them to self-isolate for 10 days. These individuals should arrange for a test if they develop symptoms but should not get tested if they feel well.
  • If you identify close contacts through internal contact tracing, you should call the NTT 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 which 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 and financial assistance if required.
  • 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. 

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

Find out how to make your workplace COVID-secure.

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 should 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. Employees should not mix with anyone outside of their pairing or bubble whilst on your premises.

If you have clients or customers visiting your site, you should also create a written log of their details when they arrive and list the members of staff 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

Businesses in certain sectors including hospitality, leisure and tourism and close contact services are required by law to have a system in place to collect test and trace data. When a group visits your premises you will need to ensure that all members of the party (16+) provide their contact details or "check-in" using the official NHS QR code poster. 

Specifically, in the hospitality sector, venues such as pubs, bars and restaurants must also take reasonable steps to refuse entry to customers who refuse to provide contact details or "check-in" using the official NHS COVID-19 App

Guidance published by the Department of Health and Social Care outlines the information required to be collected and how records should be maintained. The Growth Company has also developed an easy-to-read infographic for businesses which is available here.

 

Supporting Test and Trace - A guide for business

Employers can access guidance relating to data protection and maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors for contact tracing purposes through the Information Commissioner's Office, the UK's independent body set up to uphold information rights.

Support available

There are several situations where you might consider calling your Local Authority Public Health team for additional advice:

• if you have any concerns or require support with contact tracing or discussing the implementation of COVID-safe measures
• if your workplace has two or more cases in a two-week period and numbers continue to rise after you’ve taken the actions outlined above
• if you think your workplace might need to close because of the number of people affected
• if somebody in your workplace has been admitted to hospital with confirmed COVID-19 and/or you’re getting significant interest from local media

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


Employers who are interested in learning more about Contact Tracing can access an introductory e-Learning course (~90minutes). This will help both individuals and organisations gain a better understanding of COVID-19 as a communicable disease, clarify how it is spread from person to person, demonstrate how to apply the contact tracing model to a variety of scenarios, and clarify the role of self-isolation in helping to prevent further transmission of COVID-19. This is accessible via e-LfH Hub (e-lfh.org.uk) 

If you have any questions regarding the e-Learning platform, please send them to harvey.kennedy@nhs.net. Alternatively, if you have any difficulty accessing the e-Learning platform, please contact support@e-lfh.org.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, bannisters and lift buttons.
  • If an area has been heavily contaminated – such as with visible bodily fluids from an infected person – use protection for the eyes, mouth and nose in addition to wearing gloves and an apron.
  • Wash hands regularly, with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and straight 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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