These are your rights around Covid testing at work

Thursday, 11th February 2021, 3:25 pm
Updated Thursday, 11th February 2021, 3:26 pm
The Government recently announced that Covid testing in the workplace will be offered to more companies in England, for those who cannot work from home during lockdown (Photo: Shutterstock)

The Government recently announced that Covid testing in the workplace will be offered to more companies in England, for those who cannot work from home during lockdown.

Businesses with more than 50 employees can now access lateral flow tests, with testing previously only available to firms with more than 250 staff.

But what do employers and employees need to know about this process?

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Here, Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at employment law consultancy Peninsula, explains everything you need to know.

Do I have to have a Covid test?

Ms Palmer explains that although the Government is keen to encourage companies to implement mass testing if they have at least 50 members of staff, “employers should still proceed with caution when attempting to enforce testing requirements.”

“Getting a test is not a legal requirement, and no individual can lawfully be forced to receive one, as such an action could be considered assault,” Ms Palmer adds.

However, if employers do want to implement a policy which makes testing compulsory, then they should “clearly justify why they feel this is necessary for their specific company and the roles their employees have.”

If this cannot make this justification, then they “may find themselves facing costly claims for constructive dismissal at a later date,” says Ms Palmer.

What should an employer do if an employee doesn’t want a test?

Ms Palmer explains that employers should consider that employees may have personal reasons for not wanting to take a test, and it is therefore “highly advisable to have a constructive discussion with the employee in question.”

The employer should outline to staff why these tests are necessary and encourage them to have one when offered, instead of going down the enforcement route, says Ms Palmer.

What happens if an employee does test positive for Covid?

The procedure for what should happen if this situation arises “needs to be clearly outlined to employees prior to them receiving a test,” added Ms Palmer.

If a worker tests positive, they should not be permitted access to the workplace and should be sent home to self-isolate in line with current government guidelines.

However, Ms Palmer explains that “alternatively, the company may consider arranging for them to have a further ACR test taken, which can take more time to come back but can be more reliable than mass testing methods.”