Watch the webinar
- John Foster, Director of Policy and Communications, CBI
- Caroline Makepeace, Deputy Director for Workplace Testing, DHSC
- Simon Rice-Birchall, Partner, Employment Law, Eversheds Sutherland
- Ceri Thomas, Editor and Partner, Tortoise Media (Chair)
- John Foster kicked off the session with an update on the easing of restrictions, and on Monday we move from step 1 to step 2 of the Govt roadmap (England). This includes the re-opening of outside areas in pubs and restaurants and non-essential retail
- In Wales, from Monday non-essential retail will re-open, and from 26 April pubs and outdoors hospitality can open, May 3 gyms reopen and 2x households can meet indoors
- In Scotland, 26 April – all retail and hospitality will open
- In Northern Ireland – non-essential retail now open for click and collect and 15 April the executive meeting for potential roadmap
- In addition, vaccine programme starting in under-50’s as of tomorrow (Tuesday 13 April)
- Further, on Friday we saw the full report from the Global Travel Taskforce. CBI assessment is that the report is a mixed bag – on positives, confirmation of a traffic light system, and announcement of a green watch list – an asset for firms and consumers, as well as data points utilised for judging which country falls into which traffic light colour. However, lots of costs of testing on consumers which may dampen demand.
- On testing - progress over past 12 months has been extraordinary and it is clear the department has listened to businesses in evolving the testing regimes available: workplace testing, workplace collect, and community testing
- Outstanding questions: how does the all of the different regimes interact together? And what happens beyond the end of June which is when the Govt support is due to end?
- Caroline Makepeace opened by highlighting the DHSC see workplace testing as being the primary route for individuals to access tests and are reiterating they are encouraging everyone to test regularly even if you don't have symptoms – and lots of intention from employers wanting to test their workforce
- Employers can now set up on site testing facilities or offer employees the option of collecting tests to at home – or some combination of the two. This in conjunction with community testing via pharmacies and GOV.UK. Up to employers on which they use but want to encourage all employers to set up on-site testing where they can – shown to be marginally more effective in picking up cases
- Employers need a space, table, staff to oversee swabbing and upload the results. Guidance is available on GOV.UK. If you’re offering home testing, they ask they record batch number of the test kit in case they need to recall batches of tests. But onus is quite light on the employer
- Timeline – tests take 30 minutes and time either side depends on company specifics – where the testing sites are in relation to the working environment etc.
- LFTs perform extremely well – over 95% sensitivity rate. If someone tests positive they should follow up with a PCR test to confirm that result
- Simon Rice-Birchall started by praising vaccine roll-out – one of the biggest changes since Simon joined us back in February but says that testing has become more prevalent so something employers need to think about. There are legal differences in approaches than an employer might take:
- On site mandatory testing where the employer collects data – is the most invasive form of testing, at the other end is a voluntary testing regime carried out at home – no collection of data other than whether the test is positive or negative
- From legal standpoint, employer needs a good reason to mandate on-site testing, and a good reason for this could be (a) ensuring the company is complying with legal obligations to keep a workplace safe and also (b) necessary in the interests of public health
- But employers must be clear and transparent on their rationale if requiring testing and communicating this well with staff and overcoming any reservations they might have.