As Covid infections surge once again, we look at the latest government guidance and what employers should be doing when staff test positive.
In February, the government announced the end of the legal requirement to self-isolate when testing positive for Covid or having symptoms and from April the general access to free testing was removed.
However, we are still seeing frequent occurrences of the disease and, according to the government, we should be taking personal responsibility for protecting others. The current guidelines if you experience symptoms or test positive are:
- To try to stay at home and away from other people for 5 days
- To work from home during this period if possible
- To stay away from vulnerable people for 10 days
So, as employers, we should be encouraging staff with Covid to work from home. However, there is no longer any government support for sick pay so normal SSP rules apply. And as we know, many jobs can’t be done from home.
For those who can’t work from home, the guidance suggests you “ask your employer about options available to you”. However, there is no related guidance for employers which leaves them having to make their own decisions. We would suggest you consider the following:
- Requiring employees with symptoms that could potentially be Covid to stay away. (After all, even if it is a cold or flu, do you want it to spread to others?!)
- Sending staff home if they come to work unwell. Bear in mind that this could have implications for their pay if you send them home when they are willing to work. This can be mitigated by having a clear policy stating that anyone who is clearly unwell and sent home will be paid sick pay only.
- Requiring those who test positive to stay away, even if they don’t have symptoms. This is tricky because, with the end of free testing, people without symptoms are less likely to test. Again, this could have implications for pay
- Suggesting that anyone who has been in contact with an infected person should wear a mask
- Maintaining good ventilation and enabling a degree of social distancing where possible
- Having a written policy that sets out the rules in your workplace regarding Covid infections.
Ultimately, in the absence of legislation or clear guidance, it is very much down to each employer to make their own decisions, bearing in mind their duty of care to all employees.