Frequently asked COVID-19 questions

Updated Rules and Guidance for Employers

Updated 11th January: –

As of 11th January, anyone who tests positive in the UK with a lateral flow test does not need to order a follow-up PCR test. Confirmatory PCR tests will be temporarily suspended, a temporary measure while COVID-19 symptoms remain high across the UK.

The recent changes in the rules have caused widespread confusion on what is and what isn’t correct practice. HR departments have been flooded with queries and questions.

The Romero Group have reviewed the new rules and restrictions, filtering the COVID-19 guidelines to that which are relevant to our clients. We’ve put together the most frequently asked questions around COVID-19 and work procedures, all the information is now here to hand.

Should my employees be working from home?

The current guidance is that people working from home wherever possible. This means if an employee’s task can only be performed while in-house, then they are required to be at work. It is likely that those who can work from home will have already done so in the last 18 months so this measure should cause little to no disruption.

How long should my employees self-isolate for?

The period is currently seven days, with negative tests on both day 6 and day 7. The full 10 days is no longer necessary.

Unvaccinated members must self-isolate for 10 days; close contacts who are unvaccinated will also need to self-isolate. Employees are allowed to work from home during self-isolation, or employees can take holiday while in isolation.

If an employees family member or housemate (their close contact) contracts COVID, they are still able to return to work if testing negative and are fully vaccinated.

Further information as to the details on when to isolate is available here

Should managers ask to see proof of positive COVID test?

Employees are not required to provide evidence of a positive test result. However they are required to provide evidence of self-isolation, this can include an isolation note provided by the NHS.

There is also an online service employers can use to check whether an isolation note is valid. This service can be accessed here.

What can employers do to ensure employees are self-isolating?

There is no requirement for an employee to show evidence of a negative test prior to returning to work after a period of self-isolation.

Provided the employee has completed their self-isolation period in line with government guidelines and feels well enough to return to the workplace, they should be allowed to do so.

Do employees receive statutory sick pay for being ill with COVID?

Where an employee is incapable of working due to COVID they are entitled to receive statutory sick pay. However, the entitlement to SSP from the first day of absence only applies if the total period of absence is 4 days or more.

This contrasts with the usual rules for SSP where the first three waiting days are unpaid for employees whose sickness is not due to coronavirus.

What is the December 2021 rebate scheme

The rebate scheme allows SMEs (companies with less than 250 employees) to claim refunds for COVID-related absences.

This is a temporary scheme, only a maximum of two week can be claims per employee.

What are the penalties for coming to work with COVID-19 symptoms?

If employees knowingly have COVID-19, coming to work is deemed a disciplinary offence. However, the employer must have sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the employee was aware that they were Covid-19 positive, prior to attending work.

Employees should let their employer know immediately if they have COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test result. A full investigation to obtain the facts will be required before disciplinary action can be considered.

Can employers find out whether an employee is double vaccinated?

This information is of course sensitive and personal. Businesses should only hold data provided they have the employees express consent. Therefore, the reason for obtaining an employee’s vaccination status is crucial.

Under GDPR legislation, business must justify this cause with a legally binding reason. The following reasons may be valid for enquiring after an employee’s vaccination status:

  • If an employee is required to isolate, you may need to ask their vaccination status to decide if they can still attend work, or to determine how long they are required to isolate
  • If an employee is required to work a site where vaccination status is required (such as a Care Home)
  • If an employee requires a vaccination certificate to travel abroad as part of their work, then you may have justification to hold their status on file

Businesses should not seek to know an employees vaccination status for any other reasons than those above else risk being deemed unnecessary and therefore unlawful.

What should employers do if an employee has COVID-19 symptoms?

If an employee comes to work with COVID-19 symptoms then the employer is within their rights to send the individual home, ensuring the protection of others.

This “medical suspension” does not affect an employees pay. If the employee’s test returned a positive result, then they would revert to sick pay for the period of their self-isolation. If the employee’s test returned a negative result, then they should be allowed to return to the workplace, unless clearly too ill to be able to perform their duties to satisfactory standard.

Can employees be made to take lateral flow tests every day?

If an employers plans to test employees, they must first seek agreement with the employee. Employers will need to explain their reasoning. The employer would need to confirm they are using the data within GDPR regulations. It is advised these topics are covered within a workplace policy.

If an employee does not agree to being tested, then the employer should listen to their concerns. Ultimately, employers are not able to make tests compulsory. Employers are not able to conduct random testing either.

Update your Risk Assessment

Your risk assessment will need to be update alongside new government guidelines. See our information page below, and gain our assistance on updating yours by contacting us today.

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