As of 1st April, universal free coronavirus testing is no longer available – it’s now only offered to those who meet certain criteria (find out more here). So what does that mean for employers? And what procedures can employers implement to help promote a safe working environment for their employees?
One of the steps employers could take to help promote a safe working environment would be to distribute lateral flow tests to employees. We’ll look at the benefits of doing this (both from a safety and tax point of view) and we’ll outline some of the new guidance, but be warned – it’s vague at best!
How Can Employers Reduce The Spread Of Coronavirus In The Workplace?
As we learn to live with covid-19, and now that individuals who test positive no longer legally have to self-isolate, it can be difficult for employers to know how best to support their employees and minimise the spread of the virus. For the most part, businesses are able to implement their own procedures and guidance for working/living with coronavirus – as long as they meet legal obligations.
The government has recently published guidance that aims to advise employers on what they can do to reduce the spread of respiratory infections (including coronavirus) in the workplace. It’s advised that employers take the following actions:
- Encourage and enable vaccination
- Let fresh air in
- Maintain a clean workplace
The guidance also outlines the symptoms employers should look out for, recommendations on what they should do if a member of staff has symptoms of a respiratory infection and the requirements of a risk assessment. You can find the full article here.
Should Employers Be Offering Their Employees Lateral Flow Tests?
An additional action employers may wish to take to further reduce the spread of infection is to implement regular testing. There are both positives and negatives to offering this, so business owners need to weigh up whether testing is right for their business and its employees.
If you do decide that testing is right for your business, there are two ways you could go about this. You could purchase lateral flow tests and distribute them to your employees, or you may decide to use a provider who will organise this for you. You can find a list of approved providers via the government website.
The obvious benefits of regularly testing employees is that it minimises the risk of asymptomatic spreading, helps to protect those who are vulnerable and reduces the amount of disruption to the workplace. The cost of providing regular lateral flow tests is undoubtedly significant, but you should be able to get a good deal by buying in bulk. And remember – these costs are tax deductible.
But before you can implement a policy of this sort, you’ll need to work with your HR, legal and/or employee representative to ensure that you have appropriate procedures in place for every eventuality. For example, what will happen if an employee tests positive? Will you ask them to self-isolate (and how long will you ask them to isolate for) or are you able to provide a working-from-home solution? How will an employee’s absence be recorded and what process do they need to follow? This article from Acas gives a great insight into the types of questions you’ll need to answer before you can implement a testing policy.
How Can Employers Help To Safeguard Vulnerable Employees?
Following the government’s guidance on how to minimise the spread of respiratory infections in the workplace and setting up a testing programme for your employees are great ways to reduce the spread of the virus, which will both in turn help to protect vulnerable employees. But should employers be going further to help safeguard those who are more susceptible to the virus?
The government has published guidance for those who are at higher risk of covid-19 (you can find the government guidance here). This guidance is intended for individuals but it does outline that vulnerable people should be in talks with their employer about what arrangements and support can be made to help reduce their risk of infection.
If you’d like further information about managing covid-19 in the workplace, please take a look at the Government website for the latest updates and guidance.