Return to the office – the role of coronavirus testing

24 March 2021

As many organisations start to plan for the return to offices, we look at the role testing might play. In the entertainment industry for example, testing has already been widely adopted so that filming can continue. 

Is testing right for my organisation?

It could be as many as 1 in 3 coronavirus cases are asymptomatic.  An in-work testing regime could be introduced to identify these cases more readily and help to keep workforces safe from coronavirus. Testing could also give employees peace of mind about coming back to work with their colleagues, some of whom could be vaccinated, and some may not. Employers may even find they are able to get government support with testing. For employers that are not eligible for government support or who may have invested or intend to invest in testing our Employment Tax can advise on whether there is tax relief

Engaging with the workforce

For employers who decide testing is going to become part of their coronavirus secure workplace strategy, making sure engagement from the workforce is achieved will be an important step. Steps such as explaining why the business thinks it is necessary and information around whether it is voluntary or mandatory will be important. A process will need to be explained in terms of how testing will take place and how results will be shared and stored and then explaining what happens next.

It would be advisable for organisations that are considering introducing testing in the workplace to put a policy in place that covers all of the above and what measures might be put into place should someone refuse testing, along with practical details on how someone will be paid if they test positive.

Encouraging take up of testing

Employers should discuss and consult with their workforces if they decide to introduce testing in the workplace. This could help to flush out any issues that hadn’t been previously picked up.  Consultation and discussion would also help the company to understand any resistance that might exist.

Can employers force someone to test?

Ultimately it depends on whether the employer is being reasonable in its position along with a fair assessment of the individual circumstances surrounding why someone is refusing. If an individual is working with for example vulnerable adults it may be more reasonable to be insistent that they test.

Data Protection

Testing data will be sensitive personal information so safeguarding around that will be important. There will need to be consent for processing this data, and explanations provided for how the data will be stored, for how long and how it will be kept safe. Data protection shouldn’t be a barrier to bringing in testing provided attention is paid to making sure the correct data protection provisions are in place.

Other considerations

Testing should be considered alongside the wide range of measures that exist to create a coronavirus secure workplace. The measures adopted will all be bespoke to each individual organisation and their business needs.

For advice and guidance in relation to policies to suit your business in this area please contact Kerri Constable.