NHS Track and Trace Service

NHS Test and Trace Service

NHS test and trace service is now in operation (effective 28 May) that will affect all businesses. The new Test and Trace service is to identify, contain and control the virus.

The service has clear steps to follow as detailed:

Step 1 – Isolate

All employers should communicate to staff that if they show any symptoms of COVID-19 that include:

  • A new continuous cough
  • A high temperature
  • A loss of, or change in your normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia)

the employee must immediately report these symptoms and self-isolate as below.

  • Employees that live alone and have symptoms: however mild the symptoms, they must stay at home for at least 7 days from when the symptoms started.
  • Employees that live with others and have symptoms: if they are the first person in the house to have symptoms they must self-isolate for 7 days as above, all other people within the house-hold must isolate for 14 days from the date the first person became ill. If any members of the household then become ill, they need to isolate for at least 7 days from when they became ill, no matter how far into the 14-day isolation they are. Please click here for further guidance on timing and isolations for household

Step 2 –Test

Employees with any symptoms must urgently book a test online or call 119. The test is an antigen test and can be requested if they and/or someone they live with has symptoms and must be requested as soon as they have symptoms (the test must be carried out in the first 5 days of having symptoms). The test is a simple swab inside the nose and the back of the throat and can be done by the employee themselves should they wish.

All employees requesting a test can either visit a regional testing site or request a home test kit. All employees must self-isolate until their test results are confirmed by the NHS.

Step 3 – Results

The test result will either confirm:

  1. Employee is negative for COVID-19: they may then stop self-isolating if they feel well and all people within their household are tested and confirmed as negative. If the employee is negative but members of their household have not been tested or test positive, they must remain in isolation. Further, they are not to return to work if they are still unwell as they may spread a separate illness to others.
  2. Employee is positive for COVID-19: if an employee or a member of their household tests positive, they must remain in isolation for at least 7 days from when the symptoms started and anyone in the household must isolate for 14 days.
  3. It is unclear: if this occurs, they may be requested to perform a further test but will need to remain in isolation for at least 7 days from when the symptoms started and anyone in the household must isolate for 14 days.

Step 4 – Trace

  • If someone tests positive for Coronavirus, they will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace service to identify any close, recent contacts. The NHS will contact the positive person by email, text or phone and ask them to sign into the tracing website. The positive person will then be asked to submit a series of information to include:
  • Anyone they live with
  • Any places they have been (including work and school)
  • Names and contact details of any people they were in close contact within the 48 hours before symptoms started
  • Following the submission of the information, the Test and Trace services will contact anyone that has been in close contact. ‘Close contact’ may include household members and people that have been within 2 metres for more than 15 minutes.

A close contact person

Anyone identified as a close contact person will be contacted by text or email and will be asked to log onto the NHS Test and Trace website to communicate with the NHS (a NHS handler will call if this is not possible).

The person will then be asked to self-isolate for up to 14 days (depending on when they encountered the person who tested positive). Any member of their (the person identified as ‘close contact’) household do not need to self-isolate unless the identified person develops symptoms but do need to take extra care to follow the guidance on social distancing and hand washing.

We would advise all employers to request employees inform their Line Managers if a person in their household has been identified as a ‘close contact’ person to avoid increased risk to other employees.

Any person that is self-isolating due to being identified as a ‘close contact’ must follow Step 1 if they develop any symptoms.

What does this mean for employers?

Up to the 28 May 2020, isolation was only required for anyone displaying symptoms and their household. However, now if workers have been identified as ‘in close contact’ with someone that has tested positive, they will also be required to self-isolate. It is therefore more important than ever to ensure social distancing at work is maintained to avoid a business from becoming largely impacted by this Test and Trace service.

As confirmed in previous updates, if your employees are required to self-isolate and can work from home (if they feel fit to do so) they may do this to avoid being placed on short-term sickness. However, for employees that are not able to work from home or do not feel fit to work from home, they must be classed as sick and paid in line with your company sickness policy. If you offer enhanced company sick pay you must pay this for any employee self-isolating even if they are not ill and have only been identified as ‘close contact’. Statutory Sick Pay must be paid if enhanced sick pay is not offered.

Employers should also be reminded that you can still claim back Statutory Sick Pay for up to 2 weeks if:

  • Your employee was off work because they have COVID-19; were self-isolating; or Shielding
  • Your PAYE scheme started on or before 28 February 2020
  • You had fewer than 250 employees on 28 February 2020

As the Trace section requires a person that has tested positive to provide contact details to the NHS of any person they have been in close contact with, an employee that has not been able to maintain social distancing may need to provide personal details of other staff members. The NHS will ask for contacts within the last 48 hours before becoming ill, therefore it would be beneficial for a business to keep records of all employees that attend a work place to include any persons they have been required to work closely with. This way an employee that may have tested positive could contact the business and request this information.

Due to GDPR, all employees would need:

  • to be informed that their personal details may be provided to another employee so that they could provide them to the NHS, if required; and
  • agree what personal details are to be provided (i.e. work contact details).

Although permission should be sought, it is not required as under GDPR, there is a legal or regulatory obligation for the company to provide the information. Any employee concerned regarding their personal details should speak to their Line Manager.

Please do bear in mind that CHO does not assume any responsibility for any specific member company. Our updates are for information and guidance purposes only. It is the case that each and every member company must always take their own independent advice in respect of the specific circumstances that apply to their company.