The government has announced updated guidance on self-isolation policy as part of Step 4 of the COVID-19 roadmap. From Monday 16 August, double vaccinated people in England will no longer be legally required to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case.
The CBI recently published our new settlement for living with the virus setting out key principles for confidently re-opening the economy, including changes to self-isolation rules. We therefore welcome the government’s announcements on changes to self-isolation rules for double-vaccinated people from Monday, easing the impact of the ‘pingdemic’ on businesses. However, concerns still remain for sectors with a higher proportion of younger workers awaiting their second dose.
The CBI will continue to work with the government to support and build understanding of the processes and practicalities of self-isolation. This includes liability for employers and securing a route out of self-isolation for those who are not double vaccinated.
What has the self-isolation policy been until now?
Prior to August 16, anyone over 18, regardless of vaccination status, had to self-isolate for 10 days if identified as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case. There has been a legal duty to self-isolate, to inform your employer, and a recommendation to take a PCR test. Employers have been legally required to not let self-isolating employees come into work. And individuals who developed symptoms, regardless of whether they are contact traced, had to self-isolate and take a PCR test.
Summary of the so-called ‘house rules’:
- If you develop symptoms, you must self-isolate and take a PCR test
- If you are contact traced and not fully vaccinated, you must legally self-isolate
- If you are instructed to self-isolate, you must inform your employer
- If you are double vaccinated, none of the above apply but you should continue to take caution, social distance, use facemasks and follow government guidelines.
So, what will the self-isolation policy be from 16 August?
What will stay the same?
- Individuals who are unvaccinated, had one dose or had their second dose within the last two weeks still have a legal duty to self-isolate if contacted
- For individuals who are double vaccinated and develop symptoms then the old ‘house rules’ (see above) still apply, and you must self-isolate.
What are the key changes?
- Double vaccinated people who had their second dose more than two weeks ago will no longer have to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact
- NHS Test & Trace will still contact you to let you know that you have been in close contact, and will then verify your vaccine status
- It will be strongly recommended that you take a PCR test, but taking one is not required, and you will not have to self-isolate while waiting for the result
- The NHS COVID-19 app is being updated to reflect these changes and will advise double vaccinated people who get ‘pinged’ to get tested
- There will no longer be a legal duty to inform employers
- Employers do not need to verify vaccine status or store this health data – see Q&A below.
Q&A for businesses
Can I ask for proof of my employees’ vaccination status?
COVID status is special category data, as it is private health information. Your reason for checking or recording employees’ COVID status must be clear, necessary and transparent. If you are unable to specify a use for this information and are recording it on a ‘just in case’ basis, or if you can achieve your goal without collecting this data, then it is unlikely you will be able to justify asking for it.
As an employer, do I have to check my employees’ vaccination status?
No, employees must let you know if they are legally required to self-isolate. They can be fined if they fail to do this. If the employee is exempt from self-isolation as a contact because they are fully vaccinated, then no action is required. As an employer, you are not expected to check workers’ vaccination status. However, if an employee informs you that they are under a legal duty to self-isolate, then you must not ask them to come into work.
How does an employer know if their employee is exempt from self-isolation if they can’t check their vaccination status?
It is up to employees to inform employers if they are under a legal duty to self-isolate. If they fail to do so – including falsely claiming they are not required to self-isolate – then they can be fined. They may also be subject to a businesses’ usual disciplinary processes.
If an employee is exempt from self-isolation, can they still choose to do so?
Individuals who are fully vaccinated can still choose to self-isolate if they have close contact with a positive case. However, they will not necessarily be eligible for financial (such as statutory sick pay) or practical support while self-isolating. An employer may require an employee to continue to come into work if they are exempt from self-isolation, depending on the specific circumstances.
As an employer, can I ask employees to notify me if they are contacted even if they are exempt from self-isolation?
Employers could introduce a policy asking their employees to notify them if they are contacted even if they are double vaccinated. This is a decision for individual companies, and the government won't give guidance on this.
Can businesses make an employees come into work if they are exempt from self-isolation?
If an individual is not legally required to self-isolate, then businesses may require them to continue to come into work, depending on specific circumstances.
If an employee has been vaccinated and receives a notification from the app to self-isolate, what should they do?
From 16 August people who are fully vaccinated and identified as a contact will not need to self- isolate; including if they have received a notification from the app. Instead, they will be advised to get tested. The app is being updated to reflect this and signpost people to testing. For users who have not been fully vaccinated yet, it is recommended that they continue to follow the app’s advice to self-isolate.
- Read the CBI’s new settlement for living with the virus, with three key principles to the government for living confidently with the virus
- Read the CBI’s factsheet on workplace testing for COVID-19 to understand the different approaches employers can take.
Government and regulator resources