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With Covid infection rates still high, it’s more likely you’ll experience  staff members who think they have developed symptoms of the virus or who have received a positive test result. We’ve pulled together all the latest government advice so you know the correct steps to take if and when it happens to your business

If a worker develops symptoms 

If a worker develops symptoms, they should request a free test as soon as their symptoms start.

Once they have ordered the test, they’ll be asked by NHS Test and Trace to provide details of anyone who they have been in close recent contact with. This will not automatically be all their co-workers, but anyone who meets the definition of a close contact.

Who is a close contact?

A close contact is a person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 with a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. You can be a contact anytime from two days before the person who tested positive developed their symptoms, and up to 10 days after, as this is when they can pass the infection on to others.

A close contact can be:

• Anyone who lives in the same household as someone with COVID-19 symptoms or who has tested positive for COVID-19

• Anyone who has had any of the following types of contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 with a PCR test:face-to-face contact including being coughed on or having a face-to-face conversation within one metre.

• Been within one metre for one minute or longer without face-to-face contact.

• Sexual contacts.

• Been within 2 metres of someone for more than 15 minutes (either as a one-off contact, or added up together over one day).

• Travelled in the same vehicle or a plane.

An interaction through a Perspex (or equivalent) screen with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 is not usually considered to be a close contact, as long as there has been no other contact such as those in the list above.

The contact tracers will not consider the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) as a mitigation when assessing whether a recent contact is likely to have risked transmitting the virus. Only full medical-grade PPE worn in health and care settings will be considered.

Medical-grade PPE should not be purchased to circumvent self-isolation, as this risks disrupting critical supplies needed by the NHS and social care sector.

Alerting close contacts

When someone first develops symptoms and orders a test, they will be encouraged to alert the people that they have had close contact with in the 48 hours before symptom onset. If any of those close contacts are co-workers, the person who has developed symptoms should consider asking their employer to alert those co-workers.

Close contacts at this stage do not need to self-isolate unless requested to do so by NHS Test and Trace or a public health professional, but they should:

• Avoid contact with people at high increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus, such as people with pre-existing medical conditions

• Take extra care in practising social distancing and good hygiene

• Watch out for symptoms and self-isolate if they also show signs of coronavirus

Employers may need to keep staff informed about COVID-19 cases among their colleagues. However, employers should not name the individual. If a co-worker is at risk because of close contact with the positive case, then they will be notified to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. Employers should make sure their workplaces are safe by regular cleaning and by encouraging good hygiene practice.

If the test is positive

If the person with symptoms tests positive for COVID-19, NHS Test and Trace will notify their close contacts and instruct them to self-isolate.

This will occur by either a phone call, text message, email or letter. The period of self-isolation will be for 10 days from the point of most recent contact with the person who has tested positive for coronavirus. It is important for all contacts to self-isolate in this way because even if they do not experience symptoms, they could still be infectious to others.

When NHS Test and Trace advises contacts to self-isolate, it does not tell them the identity of the person who has tested positive.

It is the responsibility of the employee to notify their employer if they receive a positive test result. Test results are sent by text message. Staff are not obliged to provide evidence of a positive test as this is considered sensitive personal data, which is subject to data protection laws.

Make sure your workers self-isolate

You should help your employees self-isolate if they have coronavirus symptoms and are waiting for a test result, or if they are a member of the same household as someone who has symptoms or has tested positive for COVID-19.

You have a legal requirement to ensure your employees self-isolate if they:ave tested positive for coronavirus

• Have tested positive for coronavirus

• Have been in close recent contact with someone who has tested positive and received a notification to self-isolate from NHS Test and Trace

You should not share the identity of a worker who has tested positive with other workers.

You are not required to close your business if someone tests positive, however,  you should carry out a deep-clean, following the government guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings

Where workers are asked to self-isolate because they are a close contact of a positive case

If a worker is asked by NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate, you have a legal duty to not knowingly allow them to come into work, or encourage them to work anywhere other than their place of self-isolation.

• Continue to communicate with them and provide support.

• Allow them to work from home if they remain well and it is practicable to do so, for example, by finding alternative work that can be completed at home.

If a worker cannot work from home, you:

• Must ensure they receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) provided they meet the eligibility criteria.

• May consider giving them the option to use their paid leave days if they prefer.

Employees in self-isolation are entitled to SSP for every day they are in isolation, as long as they meet the eligibility conditions.

You may be able to reclaim SSP. NHS Test and Trace will provide evidence to your worker that they have been told to self-isolate. You should ask them to follow the instructions on getting an isolation note if you require evidence. You may need this evidence to reclaim SSP.

If contacted by NHS Test and Trace, your worker will need to self-isolate for 10 days from when they last came into contact with the positive case. They will not be able to leave self-isolation early even if they are not symptomatic.

They should not take a test if they are not symptomatic as this could generate a false negative and they may then go on to develop symptoms in the following days.

Multiple cases in the workplace

If there are 5 or more COVID-19 cases in 14 days in a workplace, employers should contact their local health protection team to report the suspected outbreak. Find your local health protection team.

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