Employers can inform the Self-Isolation Service Hub that a member of their workforce has tested positive. This will help to ensure that all workplace contacts are registered with NHS Test and Trace and can receive the necessary support available to help them to self-isolate.
Should employers continue to have their own internal contact tracing and reporting processes in place, including an organisational Single Point of Contact (SPoC)?
Yes – all organisations should have an identified SPoC who is responsible for reporting positive cases and other Covid-related incidents to the relevant authorities.
Organisations should undertake internal contact tracing as soon as possible; do not wait for NHS Test and Trace.
Is the information captured through the NHS Test and Trace and NHS Covid-19 app integrated with the NHS Covid-19 Pass on the NHS app?
The NHS App is not the same as the NHS Covid-19 app.
Data captured through NHS Test and race and the NHS Covid-19 app (such as check-ins as venues, for example) is not integrated with the Covid-19 pass on the NHS app.
If an employee is instructed by NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate while they are at work, how should they return home?
They should return home immediately, ideally avoiding public transport.
If they can walk, cycle, or drive, or have someone from their household collect them in a private vehicle, this is ideal.
The next preferable option is using a private hire vehicle with the necessary precautions (i.e. all passengers wear a face covering, and windows are fully opened, etc).
The last option is public transport, with all possible precautions and avoiding busy routes wherever possible.
Is NHS Test and Trace still contacting people who have been within two metres of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, even though the social distancing requirements have been removed?
Yes – the definitions of a”close contact” have not changed.
Infection prevention control measures
Is there a risk that the wearing face coverings in the workplace could create more conflict between people? Would it be better just to reinforce good hygiene instead?
Asking staff, visitors and customers to wear a face covering while on-site may be a useful control measure highlighted through your organisational risk assessment, and expected by the Government for crowded, enclosed spaces.
Employing a number of different control measures, including enhanced cleaning, is more effective than one measure on its own.
Clear communication around expectations can help to reduce the risk of conflict.
With social distancing and the wearing of face coverings being abandoned when infections are rising, how can we prevent outbreaks in our buildings when the Delta variant is significantly more transmissible than the Alpha variant?
It is a legal requirement to undertake risk assessments, and Covid-19 should be considered as a workplace hazard within this process.
The risk assessment process should consider a range of infection prevention control measures to mitigate risks posed by Covid-19, and to minimise the risk of it spreading as far as is reasonably practicable.
Are blanket measures - such as temperature checks - more effective than individual measures, such as relying on people to wear face coverings?
A combination of measures is likely to be the most effective in terms of reducing risk of harm from Covid-19.
These may include “user-dependent” measures, such as wearing face coverings, as well as “blanket” measures, such as placing furniture to assist social distancing, and increasing ventilation.
The HSE advises against mass temperature screening for a number of reasons.
Should employees be doing a rapid (lateral flow) test on the days they are visiting the office, or just twice a week, regardless of the number of times they want to come into the office?
The government advice is for everyone to test twice a week using a rapid (lateral flow) test, as long as they do not have symptoms.
Ideally, staff will be testing before travelling to the workplace.
Will PCR and lateral flow testing remain free?
As long as Covid-19 testing is required as a population measure in tackling the disease, it will remain available and free.
Is denying someone entry because they haven’t had a Covid-19 vaccine discriminatory, as vaccination is not legally required?
Control measures to permit entry to premises should not rely on proof of vaccination alone, and can be combined with the requirement for a recent negative test result, for example.
This is because Covid-19 vaccinations are not mandatory and, while they are safe and effective for most people, there is a minority of individuals who will not be able to access it for clinical reasons.
What if staff are choosing not to have the vaccine? What conversations are you legally allowed to have with them?
As above, Covid-19 vaccination is not mandatory, however employers are advised to encourage and support their staff to access the vaccine, for example by providing time off to attend appointments, and sharing information about the benefits of vaccination from a reputable source, such as the NHS website.
How effective is one vaccine? Should people who are waiting for their second be extra careful, and should additional precautions be put in place for them?
Being fully vaccinated provides the best possible protection against becoming seriously ill from Covid-19, or experiencing long Covid, but even then, is not 100% effective.
Everyone – no matter their vaccination status – should continue to take precautions, especially while case numbers are high.
Is there any advice for those who have had the Indian-made AstraZeneca vaccine? Will they be required to have another vaccine if they want to travel?
The vaccine offers the same protection as the British-made one, so getting another vaccine is not required.
The manufacturer has not been approved by the European Medicines Agency, but individual European countries take their own stance when it comes to recognising this vaccine, or not, as it has been approved by the World Health Organisation.
Individuals who have received the Indian-made AstraZeneca vaccine, also known as “Covishield”, are advised to check the entry requirements of the country they wish to travel to.
What are the chances of someone getting Covid even if they have been fully vaccinated?
No vaccine is 100% effective, and there have been examples of people getting Covid despite being fully-vaccinated and/or having had Covid previously.
An individual’s chances of getting infected after vaccination depends on a range of factors, including their behaviours, individual risk factors (such as age, lifestyle, weight, underlying health conditions).
The prevalence of Covid-19 in their local area, and the variants in circulation can also impact on the risk.
For example, even if only a small percentage of people can be infected despite being fully vaccinated, if the case numbers are high, the real value of that percentage can also be high.
If an employer has encouraged or supported their staff to get the Covid-19 vaccine, and the individual experiences a severe side effect or reaction as a result, is the employer liable?
No. Before receiving the vaccine, the individual is provided with information about the vaccine and its associated risks, which they must agree to before receiving the vaccine.
They are also asked some questions about their medical history, and if they have severe allergies, or are pregnant.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is closely monitoring side effects and adverse reactions to the vaccine via its Yellow Card scheme.
Can employers ask staff if they have been vaccinated?
The CIPD advises that this is private medical information, but when making decisions, e.g. through the risk assessment, these will have to be made on the information available to the organisation.
Am I allowed to introduce different rules for staff who haven’t been vaccinated?
It depends on the nature of work, and organisations are advised to seek legal and HR advice, to ensure that practices are not discriminatory, for example.
Health, safety and wellbeing
How can businesses ensure they have First Aiders and Fire Marshals on site when staff are working in a flexible way and it’s not always clear who will be in the office and when?
You should review your Fire Risk Assessment to ensure that it takes into account any changes to your business operations due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Will the requirement for Covid-19 risk assessments continue into the autumn?
Businesses continue to have legal responsibilities with regards to Health and Safety laws and regulations, which include the duty to undertake risk assessment to consider work-related hazards and implement control measures to reduce the associated risk as far as is reasonably practicable.
Covid-19 remains a notifiable disease and must be considered as a workplace hazard.
How can I support my employees’ mental wellbeing?
There is lots of free support available to individuals for their mental wellbeing, as well as for employers to signpost and assist their workforce.
Organisations should consider all staff working on their premises, not just employees, but contractors and agency staff, too.
In addition, you may want to consider undertaking a stress risk assessment, and looking at working hours and work-life balance.
What are the health and safety requirements for hybrid working and hot-desking?
Health and safety requirements covering both physical and mental/psychological health and safety and prevention through proper risk management are always better than cure.
For example, employers may need to consider lone working, stress (see above) and DSE (if someone is using DSE for a substantial part of their work).
Clear, regular, and transparent communication and engagement with the workforce helps to underpin this.
When considering hot-desking and the associated risks, cleaning and disinfection should also be
considered in terms of reducing the risk of transmission between individuals.
How can I address staff anxieties about commuting, especially where face coverings are not mandated?
In Step 4, many transport operators, including Transport for London, have continued to mandate the use of face coverings on their network.
You may also like to consider supporting staff to use active modes of travel – such as walking and cycling – even for part of their commute.
Staggering start and finish times to help staff avoid peak times can also help.
Can I make exemptions for Clinically Extremely Vulnerable staff to work from home, if other employees are expected to return to the workplace?
The Government has published specific guidance for employers to support workers who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) to Covid-19. CEV individuals – and others with clinical vulnerabilities – will have their own requirements and it is recommended that they are engaged with on a case-by-case basis.
They may also benefit from consulting their GP or specialist for support and guidance on any further measures they can take to further reduce their risk of infection.
Hosting meetings and events
How can I provide refreshments, free fruit/ snacks and the use of shared cutlery in my workplace in a safe way?
Provision of refreshments and snacks, as well as the use of shared cutlery, should be considered with the principles of infection prevention control in mind.
For example, avoiding the sharing of food/ drink and cutlery could be considered, and then looking at individually-packed/ covered items to avoid the need for sharing or exposure to viruses and bacteria, for example.
Provision should also be weighed up against the environmental impacts – for example single-use disposable cutlery.
How can I host events and meetings safely?
Events and meetings should be risk assessed against regulations and guidance.
Control measures may include the avoiding of face-to-face meetings in close contact, or the gathering of large groups of people, and ensuring that meeting/ events spaces are well-ventilated and make use of additional control measures to limit the spread of Covid-19.
How can I find out about local road and traffic management news?
The Mayor of London is offering 100% free fundraising to help businesses to secure trade by pre-selling vouchers, goods and services.
Through the Pay It Forward initiative, small businesses can offer customers the option to buy goods and services in advance based on a promise to deliver in the future, helping to secure trade through this difficult time.
This means people can book and look forward to future activities – such as meals, events, hotel bookings etc – while supporting their favourite small businesses to stay afloat.
The Mayor of London’s Back to Business Fund will also offer up to £5,000 in match funding to small and independent businesses through the Pay it Forward crowdfunding platform.