Contact tracing is one of the few tools we have available – apart from social distancing – to try to reduce the reproduction rate, the ‘R number’ for the coronavirus.
Read this factsheet to understand the role and responsibilities of employers in supporting Test, Trace and Protect.
Please note – this factsheet focuses on Wales only. All four administrations are working together to seek to achieve a consistent and joined-up approach to testing and tracing. Discover more about NHS Test and Trace for England.
What’s the latest information and insight?
NHS Wales Test, Trace and Protect was launched on 1 June 2020 by Vaughan Gething, Minister of Health and Social Services. The aim of the scheme is ‘to help citizens of Wales to resume their normal lives gradually and safely.’
Those who have tested positive for the virus are required to isolate for a minimum of 10 days or until symptoms subside. Those identified as a contact will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days, which has many implications for business.
Read the full overview of the Test and Trace service on the Welsh government website. Below is a select extract:
Test, Trace, Protect will work by:
- Identifying those who have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, enabling them to be tested while isolating from wider family, friends and their community
- Tracing those individuals who have been in close contact with the person who has tested positive on any occasion during a period beginning up to two days before they started experiencing symptoms, and requiring them to take precautions and self-isolate (for 14 days)
- Providing advice and guidance, particularly where the individual who has tested positive or their contacts are vulnerable or at greater risk.
- Ensuring that if the individual tests negative and the symptoms are not due to coronavirus, individuals and their contacts can get back to their normal routines as soon as possible.
NHS coronavirus app
What are the main features of the coronavirus app?
- Symptom tracker – this will tailor advice to a person based on when the symptoms started; the app will then direct you to apply for a test on the government website; it does not rush the process of receiving a test
- Isolation tracker – enabling a person to track the length of time they are required to self-isolate
- The app provides anonymous notifications if a person has been in the vicinity of a person who has tested positive
- A postcode is the only piece of personal information the app takes
- Can you input more than one postcode?
- No; for example, if you live in a different Local Authority to the one you work in, it is up to you which postcode to input
- There is an option to search for the number of cases in a different postcode through the app.
- Can you input more than one postcode?
- The phone uses Bluetooth, the range the app can scan is that which Bluetooth allows; it does not use GPS, therefore a person’s location is not tracked.
How does the app help with contact tracing?
- When a person has downloaded the app onto their phones, as they go about their day the app/phone exchanges ‘Bluetooth handshakes’ with other phones who have the app
- If a person tests positive for coronavirus, a notification will be sent via the app to all the people who that positive person has come into the vicinity of; this is only done if someone has booked a test through the app - if someone applies for a test online, the app has no way of knowing unless the user inputs the data in
- There is an option to turn off contact tracing.
Which businesses need to have posters up?
- A firm must have at least one NHS QR poster up, if the venue is big enough it is up to the owners to put up multiple posters
- Supermarkets and other retail outlets are not required to have a poster up, except if there is a hospitality area where people can congregate
- You can download a QR poster through gov.uk.
What is the definition of a ‘contact’?
A ‘contact’ is a person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 anytime from two days before the person was symptomatic up to seven days from onset of symptoms (this is when they are infectious to others). The definition of a contact is:
A contact means:
- someone within 1 metre of them with whom they have had a face-to-face-conversation, had skin-to-skin physical contact, have coughed on, or been in other forms of contact within 1 metre or 1 minute or longer
- someone within 2 metres of them for more than 15 minutes
- someone they have travelled in a vehicle with - or has been seated near them on public transport.
The contact tracer will take into consideration any additional circumstances, such as contacts who work in health and social care professional roles and the correct use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), any protective screens used in the workplace, and adherence to the 2m distancing rule which, if correctly followed, will not be regarded as a contact for these purposes.
Frequently asked questions
What financial support is available for those who need to self-isolate?
Businesses are concerned that the financial support available to workers told to isolate could deter them from following isolation advice, particularly when asymptomatic.
People are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they are ‘workers’, are self-employed or earn below £120 a week. SSP is paid at just under £96 per week. SSP rates could simultaneously be a financial penalty for employees who cannot work because of isolation, and an unsustainable cost-burden for employers as the rebate is limited to small firms for no more than one 14-day absence period per employee. The costs for firms that offer occupational sick pay could also be much higher.
Firms of all sizes are concerned about increased cost-pressures as employees could be told to isolate for multiple periods. The financial support available from the government is continuing to evolve and we are encouraging the government to consider additional support for firms and individuals.
Employers should be explicit in their communication with workers of the level of support that their business can offer to people unable to work because they are sick or asked to isolate.
HM Revenue and Customs - Statutory Sick Pay and financial support
Employees in self-isolation are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay for every day they are in isolation, provided they meet the eligibility conditions. Read the guidance on gov.uk.
SMEs can claim a rebate for SSP for one 14-day isolation per employee. They will need a coronavirus isolation note from their employee to make the claim.
Welsh Government financial support.
On the 30 of October 2020 the Welsh Government announced two financial support measures. Anyone who is on low-income and is required to self-isolate will be entitled to a fix payment of £500. The Welsh Government also announced the Statutory Sick Pay Enhancement scheme. This scheme provides one-payment of £500 to staff within registered care homes and domiciliary care services and includes Personal Assistants (PAs). The scheme will run from 1 November 2020 until 31 March 2021, payments are backdated from the 23 October. Full guidance of the scheme, including details of those who are eligible, can be found on gov.wales.
How have regulations changed to support Test, Trace and Protect?
On the 30 October, the First Minister announced that coronavirus regulations will be strengthened, including introducing:
- a new offence of knowingly giving false information to the Test Trace Protect service
- a new legal duty to self-isolate for up to 14 days if instructed by Test, Trace and Protect.
- a new duty for employers to ensure they cannot prevent an employee from following advice to self-isolate.
A breach of these rules will see the individual face a fixed penalty notice. Employers who force an employee who has been previously advised to self-isolate, to work, will be issued with a fixed penalty notice (FPN) of £1000 – repeat offenders will face prosecution.
How can business best support employees to follow public health guidance?
- Self-isolation for 14 days in accordance with the NHS guidelines will be especially difficult for some employees and may affect their mental health; employers should continue to communicate with staff during this period
- Workers have no legal obligation to tell their employer that they have been told to isolate so employers may wish to make this a requirement through their health & safety policies
- Workers will be less likely to follow public health guidance to self-isolate if they have financial or job security concerns
- Understand that employees could be requested to self-isolate more than once, including because people who live with individuals with coronavirus symptoms are also required to isolate.
How could workplace testing help ensure a safer work environment?
Without greater public health certainty of incubation and immunity related to COVID-19, firms should encourage their staff to follow Test, Trace and Protect isolation instructions and not ask them to work if they are sick or cannot leave their home. While the government is considering workplace testing as part of its long-term strategy, it does not currently inform who Test and Trace ask to isolate. So, workers should follow isolation instructions, even where independent tests suggest they do not have the virus.
However, as part of risk mitigation, some businesses are evaluating whether to facilitate workplace testing as part of ensuring safe workplaces and supporting staff with prompt access to appropriate health care. As public health guidance becomes more certain and accessibility widens, this could be an option for more businesses to continue to operate safely.
Offering access to independent and repeat testing may be an option to mitigate risk and ensure a safe working environment for some businesses. It should be evaluated against the latest public health advice and does not presently replace Test, Trace and Protect isolation instructions.
What does the app mean for high-risk sectors?
In Wales, since July all businesses who have been deemed high risk have had a legal obligation to keep a record of customer/visitor data for 21 days. Many have used their own QR system to do this, if a customer uses the firm’s log in/QR system they do not have to use the NHS code. The NHS QR code does not replace this obligation in businesses; firms will have to continue keeping a record for 21 days.
What is happening with mass testing in Merthyr Tydfill?
From 20 November people over the age of 11, living and working in Merthyr Tydfill, will be able to take a COVID test.
How will this work?
The first testing site opened at Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Centre; military personal have been drafted to help with the coordination of the pilot. There is no booking system, anyone can show up to take a test.
The test being used is Lateral Flow Testing (LFT) which can produce a result in 20 to 30 minutes. Anyone who has received a positive result from a LFT is told to self-isolate and asked to get a traditional test that is used throughout Wales.
NHS Wales Test, Trace and Protect ‘performance reporting’: there’s intense ongoing interest, from many quarters, in the performance of NHS Wales Test, Trace and Protect. The Welsh Government releases statistics weekly, the links to the site are below:
On 24 February 2021, the Welsh Government announced its workplace testing framework. Working jointly with the Department of Health and Social care support for firms looking to undertake workplace testing will be accessible through the Welsh Government. The Welsh Government support for regular asymptomatic testing in private and public sector workplaces in Wales will focus on workplaces:
- Higher exposure to risk.
- Working conditions that involve close proximity to others.
- More than 50 employees cannot work from home.
- Firms deliver and maintain key services for the public.
The support offered by the Welsh Government includes the following:
- A supply of Lateral Flow Tests.
- Training will be made available, including how to administer and supervise tests.
- A medical professional does not have to be hired to administer the test. What has been observed during the pilot schemes undertaken at TATA Steelworks and South Wales police. Is that if it is the same members of staff administering the test, the repetition and familiarity of knowing how to understand the testing process produces more accurate results.
- PCR testing will be made available for all lateral flow test positive cases.
- Support for employees to self-isolate including financial and wider Protect offer activities.
Workplace testing is not mandatory for employers to undertake; however, it is available for those who would like to implement testing and meet the above requirements. Below is a brief outline of the requirements employers will need to meet to receive Welsh Government support.
- Voluntary: employees should have the right to refuse a test and not be penalised.
- TU engagement.
- COVID-19 safety measures, such as social distance and hygiene practices, will need to be maintained. Workplace testing works alongside these measures and does not replace them.
- Firms must have the resources, logistics capacity and capability to deliver workplace testing.
Full details of the framework can be found. here and if you are interested in receiving support from the Welsh government for workplace testing you can register your interest by emailing Covid19.WorkplaceTesting@gov.wales