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Are you confused by the COVID rules ? Here is a rundown courtesy of CKMA Sponsors Pennine HR...

COVID-19:  Employee Self Isolation and Track & Trace

As the national track and trace system continues to roll out and infection rates rise, we have summarised current guidelines relating to the system and the knock on effects of self isolation with regards to how they impact employers:

General guidance

The official .GOV site (Test and Trace in the Workplace) is prefaced by this general guidance that employers should keep front of mind:

  • Make workplaces as safe as possible (where working from home is not possible)
  • Request that workers self-isolate if they have been asked to do so
  • Supporting workers when in isolation

If a worker develops symptoms

  • They should self isolate immediately and request a free test as soon as the symptoms start
  • They will be asked by track and trace to provide the details of anyone they have been in close contact with – this doesn’t automatically mean co-workers
  • Close contact is:
  • A person who has ordered a test will be encouraged by track and trace to contact people they have been in close contact with in the 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms
  • If the close contacts are co-workers they should ask their employer to alert the people concerned
  • At this stage, close contacts don’t need to self isolate unless told to by track and trace or a public health professional. They should remain vigilant, maintain normal safety procedures, adhere to Government guidelines and look out for any symptoms
  • Employers should keep staff informed about COVID cases within the workforce BUT SHOULD NOT name the individual(s) concerned

The outcome of the test – a person with symptoms

  • If the test is negative, the person should return to work as soon as they are able.
  • If the test is positive, the person concerned will be notified by the powers that be and MUST self isolate for at least 10 days and for longer after that is they continue to be unwell. Failure to comply with self isolation protocols (or giving false information to track and trace) could result in a fine.

Self Isolation – who should do it?

  • A person who has tested positive for Coronavirus should self isolate as above
  • A person who lives with someone who has tested positive or has symptoms
  • A person in your support bubble has tested positive or has symptoms
  • A person who has been contacted by track and trace and instructed to self isolate
  • Individuals who are being told to self isolate can (and should) request an isolation note from the NHS and they should share this with their employer

And who shouldn’t?

  • Everyone else – see this snip from the NHS UK website:
  • If contacted by track and trace, individuals are NOT required to have a test unless they are symptomatic
  • If an individual without symptoms does have a test, they will still have to self isolate for the fill period

Supporting workers who are self isolating

All Government guidance urges employers to support people who are self isolating so they don’t some into work and risk spreading the virus.  Indeed, there are fines ranging from £1,000 to £10,000 for employers who force employees to come into work and not self isolate.

Employees who are self isolating and cannot work from home are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from day one of absence, which employers can claim in the normal way.  Government guidelines urge businesses with company sick pay schemes to apply these to staff who are self isolating.

Although not stated on .GOV websites, ACAS guidelines indicate that an employer can put someone who is self isolating on furlough (provided they meet the qualifying criteria) – this would need to be in agreement with the employee.  There would be no obligation to top up to 100% but as this is the last month of the scheme, you would have to pay pension & NI contributions and the HMRC rebate would be 60% of the furlough amount.  This will not be an option after 31st October when the furlough scheme closes.

 

Multiple cases in the workplace

If there is more than one case of COVID-19 in a workplace, employers should contact their local health protection team and report a suspected outbreak.  The heath protection team will:

 

  • Carry out a risk assessment
  • Provide public health advice
  • If necessary, establish a multi-agency incident management team to manage the outbreak
  • Provide guidance on how / whether the workplace should remain open

 

Click here to find your local health protection team:     https://www.gov.uk/health-protection-team

As ever, we will share information, our take on things and how they might affect businesses when we can.  We are here to provide support and guidance on all HR and people management issues.  Our office will remain open and we continue to follow COVID safety guidelines to make our business as resilient and safe as possible.

If you have any specific questions or challenges please contact us.

Steve Bradley Director

Pennine HR

16th October 2020