Changes to self-isolation rules
30 September 2021
Employers will be interested to know that changes have been made to the self-isolation rules in England which affects what happens when their employees are notified that they are a contact of someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. These took effect from 16 August 2021.
The updated guidance provides that individuals informed by NHS Test and Trace that they are a contact of someone who has tested positive will not need to self-isolate where they are:
- Fully vaccinated (this means the individual has been vaccinated with an MHRA approved COVID-19 vaccine in the UK, and at least 14 days have passed since they received the recommended doses of that vaccine.)
- Below the age of 18 and a half
- Have taken part in, or are currently taken part in, an approved Covid-19 vaccine trial
- Not able to be vaccinated for medical reasons
If a non-exempt employee is told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace and is due to work somewhere other than their place of self-isolation, they have a legal duty to inform their employer as soon as possible before they are next due to work. Failure to do so could result in a £50 fine.
Exempt employees do not need to inform their employer if they are a contact of a positive case. Employers are not expected to check whether an individual is exempt from self-isolation. Employees also do not need to inform employers if they have received a contact notification and advice from the NHS COVID-19 app.
Those who are exempt from self-isolation from 16 August 2021 will still be advised to take a PCR test but will not be required to self-isolate while they wait for the result. Obviously, if the result is positive then they will have to self-isolate. Even if the result is negative, they are advised to consider the following precautions until 10 days after their most recent contact with the positive case.
- Limiting close contact with people outside their household, especially in enclosed spaces
- Wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces and where they are unable to maintain social distancing
- Limiting contact with anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable
- Taking part in regular lateral flow testing
It is an offence for an employer to allow an employee to attend the workplace if they are aware that they are legally required to self-isolate because they have been notified by NHS Test and Trace that they have either:
- tested positive for COVID-19
- been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and they are not exempt from self-isolation
This applies for the employee’s full self-isolation period unless they are participating in an approved daily contact testing scheme. Failure to do so could result in an employer facing a fine, starting from £1,000 as we wrote about in our previous article.
What about daily contact testing?
Daily contact testing is only available to workplaces that have been approved to take part in the workplace daily contact testing scheme. The initial roll-out covers workplaces in sectors that provide essential services, including food distribution and production, emergency services, transport networks, defence, prisons, waste collection and energy. Those sites approved for workplace daily contact testing will be able to continue providing this service after 16 August for employees who are not exempt from self-isolation.
Lessening disruption to businesses
It is hoped that these changes will lessen the disruption previously faced by employers when an employee had been told to self-isolate and with many people now double-jabbed, this seems a positive step.
Issues could arise however, where an employee has informed their employer that they are exempt from self-isolation for one of the above reasons, when in fact they are not. Any employer who discovers that they have been misled would want to consider action under their disciplinary procedure. Our team can help employers with these kinds of issues, including disciplinary investigations, hearings, and appeals.
If you are an employer with legal questions post lockdown, then we can help. Please call us on 01243 836840 for a no obligation chat, or email us at [email protected].