NHS Test and Trace system is launched today. How does it work and what is the impact on employers?

Anyone with symptoms will be tested and close contacts traced. Those who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive must isolate for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms, to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus.

Close contacts are members of your household, those with whom you have had direct contact or within 2 metres for more than 15 minutes.

If told to isolate, once in isolation, book a test. If positive, you must continue to stay at home for 7 days or until symptoms have passed. If negative, you must stay at home to complete your 14 day isolation period.

Members of your household do not have to stay at home unless you become symptomatic, at which point they must also self isolate for 14 days.

The accompanying app NHS COVID-19 will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

The Department for Work and Pensions has announced that those having to self-isolate will be eligible for statutory sick pay if they are unable to work from home.

NHS Test and Trace has implications for the workplace and the government has issued specific guidance on this.

For Employers:

Employers are asked to make their workplaces as safe as possible and encourage workers to heed notifications to self isolate, supporting them when in isolation.

The NHS Test and Trace service supplements the risk mitigation measures taken by employers in their adherence to already published sector specific health and safety guidance for working safely.

If multiple cases of coronavirus appear in a workplace, an outbreak control team from the Local Authority or Public Health England will, if necessary, be assigned to help the employer manage the outbreak. Employers should seek advice from their Local Authority in the first instance.

Employers should not ask workers who need to self isolate to attend the workplace and being notified to self isolate by NHS test and trace is now an additional reason for self isolation.

As before, if the worker is well and it is practicable they should be allowed to work from home during self isolation. If they can’t, they must receive sick pay or be given the option to use their paid leave days if they prefer. Employees in isolation are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay for every day they are in isolation, as long as they meet eligibility conditions and this can be reclaimed.

The NHS test and trace service will provide a notification that can be used as evidence that someone has been told to self isolate.

An employee can ask to take their paid holiday for the time they’re off work, entitling them to full pay for the duration of their leave, as opposed to Statutory Sick Pay, if they choose.

NHS Test and Trace essentials:

For reference, these are the steps we must all take from today. Full guidance is available from GOV.UK

How NHS Test and Trace works for someone with coronavirus symptoms

  • isolate: As soon as you experience coronavirus symptoms, you should self-isolate for at least 7 days. Anyone else in your household should self-isolate for 14 days from when you started having symptoms.
  • test: You should order a coronavirus test immediately at uk/coronavirus or call 119 if you have no internet access.
  • results: If your test is positive you must complete the remainder of your 7-day self-isolation. Anyone in your household should also complete self-isolation for 14 days from when you started having symptoms. If your test is negative, you and other household members no longer need to isolate.
  • share contacts: If you test positive for coronavirus, the NHS Test and Trace service will send you a text or email alert or call you within 24 hours with instructions of how to share details of people you have been in close, recent contact with and places you have visited. It is important that you respond as soon as possible so that we can give appropriate advice to those who need it. You will be asked to do this online via a secure website or you will be called by one of our NHS contact tracers.

How NHS Test and Trace works for those contacted if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus

  • alert: You will be alerted by the NHS Test and Trace service if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. The alert will come either by text or email and you’ll need to log on to the NHS Test and Trace website, which is the easiest way for you and the service to communicate with each other – but, if not, a trained call handler will talk you through what you need to do. Under 18’s will get a phone call and a parent or guardian will be asked to give permission for the call to continue.
  • isolate: You will be asked to begin self-isolation for up to 14 days, depending on when you last came into contact with the person who has tested positive. It’s really important to do this even if you don’t feel unwell, because it can take up to 14 days for the symptoms to develop. This will be crucial to avoid you unknowingly spreading the virus to others. Your household doesn’t need to self-isolate with you, but they must take extra care to follow the guidance on social distancing and washing your hands.
  • test if needed: If you develop symptoms of coronavirus, other members of your household should self-isolate at home and you should book a coronavirus test at uk/coronavirus or call 119 if you have no internet access. If your test is positive you must continue to stay at home for 7 days. If your test is negative, you must still complete your 14 day self-isolation period because the virus may not be detectable yet.

Useful links

Recover Covid-19 Statutory Sick Pay

Book a Covid-19 test

NHS test and trace : workplace guidance