CBI content does not constitute legal or financial advice. This factsheet is not intended to make a judgement about which testing options are best or the specific activities you should undertake. Scientific understanding and data in this field is changing and being updated on a regular basis. Each business needs a plan unique to their own requirements. Decisions about actions to take will be different for every company and are therefore a matter for each individual business.
Testing, tracing, and isolating are a central part of the UK’s toolkit in the fight against COVID-19, and are likely to remain so until - and even after - the majority of the UK population is vaccinated. This factsheet contains information for employers on the NHS Test and Trace programme for those with COVID-19 symptoms in England, and the equivalent test and trace systems in the devolved administrations. We have also created a complementary factsheet on workplace testing.
What’s the latest information and insight?
NHS Test and Trace (England) was launched by the government in May 2020. It provides testing for anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus to find out if they have the virus, gets in touch with those who have had a positive test result to help them share information about any recent close contacts they have had, and alerts those contacts where necessary to notify them that they need to self-isolate to stop the spread of the virus.
It is a legal requirement for employers to not knowingly allow an employee who has been told to self-isolate to come into work or work anywhere other than their own home for the duration of their self-isolation period. Failure to do so could result in a fine starting from £1,000.
Employers therefore have a crucial role in ensuring staff are encouraged to follow isolation instructions and are given support to do so when called to and that workplaces are made as safe as possible, if the option to work from home is not possible.
Guidance for businesses
Read the Test and Trace workplace guidance for employers, businesses and workers. Test and Trace guidance links through to the broader employer guidance from BEIS, five steps for working safely and sector-specific guidance. The government has reinforced the importance of existing COVID-19 secure guidance to help reduce the risk of infection in the workplace, and said it will commit to updated guidance providing further advice for firms.
Reopening risk assessment plan
Firms should prioritise sharing information about testing and tracing with their workers, including clearly communicating the steps that workers need to take if they are contacted. This will become increasingly important as lockdown restrictions are eased following the government’s roadmap, with instances of contact tracing likely to increase, in particular as a result of the new highly transmissible variants.
It is also important that employees understand the health and safety measures that firms have introduced to the workplace and can communicate them. This could help to avoid unnecessary isolations as they are able to inform test and trace agents about relevant measures in place to reduce risk of transmission (such as Perspex screens).
Employers should ensure they are fulfilling their duty of care to their whole workforce, this includes agency workers, contractors, volunteers, customers, suppliers and other visitors. The CBI’s factsheet on returning to work safely includes information on how businesses can plan a safe restart. Read the government's guidance on working safely, with the government committing to updated guidance for firms.
NHS COVID-19 app
The COVID-19 app has a number of purposes:
- Contact tracing: alerting users if they have been near other users who have tested positive for the virus
- Providing information about the virus: users can find information on the level of COVID-19 risk in their postcode district, check to see if they have symptoms, book a test and get their result
- Venue check-in: users can check into designated venues, which must display an NHS QR poster for app users to scan. The government also details further information around firms’ record-keeping obligations (please note that guidance differs for firms in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales). Read the government's guidance for workers.
A separate app will be used to display vaccination and testing data for international travel. Government ministers have confirmed that England's existing NHS app, already used by around a million people, will be updated for this purpose.
Guidance for devolved administrations
An overview of NHS Wales Test, Trace, and Protect can be found on the Welsh government's website.
An overview of the Scottish Test and Protect system can be found on the Scottish government’s website.
Information on the Northern Irish Test, Trace, Protect can be found on the NI Public Health Agency's website.
- Government guidance on NHS Test and Trace
- NHS Test and Trace frequently asked questions for workplaces
- Government guidance on maintaining records of staff, customers, and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace
- Read the CBI's factsheet on workplace testing, which details several key business considerations and links to resources that will also apply to NHS Test and Trace, for example around Statutory Sick Pay, data protection, and employee wellbeing.