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Workplace Covid testing extended to smaller employers

Workplace testing is set to play an integral part in the roadmap to reopening businesses in the UK. As of 6th April, businesses with more than 10 employees are eligible to sign up to free lateral flow tests. Employers must register by 12th April and the kits are free up until 30th June 2021.  

The government said around 60,000 companies had already signed up for workplace testing, where lateral flow tests are used to detect asymptomatic cases and help prevent workplace outbreaks. 

What is a lateral flow test? 

A lateral flow device (LFD) uses the same technology as a pregnancy test with a test paper that changes colour if a sample taken from the throat and nose indicates coronavirus is present. After the swab from the tester is put into a special solution, it is then transferred to the LFD with the result becoming visible after 30 minutes. These are the same tests that have been rolled out to secondary schools and colleges for staff and pupils. 

This is different from a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test which is more accurate as it involves a laboratory analysing the sample and providing the result. 

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said that testing was a “vital part of our roadmap, helping us to cautiously lift restrictions on our economy and society”. 

“Around one in three people with coronavirus do not have any symptoms, so extending employee testing from the workplace to the home will help us identify more cases we otherwise wouldn’t find, prevent further transmission and save lives.” 

Matthew Fell, chief UK policy director for the CBI, said “Not all employers will have the space or facilities to run testing programmes on their premises.”  

“The move to home testing reflects ongoing, high quality dialogue between business and government. We’d encourage as many firms as possible to register before the 12 April deadline, as part of their broader efforts to keep staff and customers safe.” 

It is advised that businesses who are currently closed or still considering if testing is right for them should register so they have the option to order tests in future. However, according to the roadmap out of lockdown, those who can work from home should be doing so until at least 21 June but chancellor Rishi Sunak hinted that there could be another government push to encourage employees back to offices as the vaccine roll-out gathers pace and restrictions ease. 

The government has published workplace testing guidance for employers setting out the options for workforce testing, alongside more practical setting-up advice. Acas has also provided advice on testing staff for coronavirus. 

If you have any questions regarding the issues you need to consider for workplace testing along with the legal issues such as making workplace testing mandatory, then please get in touch with a member of the ViewHR team today.