Testing for Employees

By February 8, 2021Employment Law

Employers with 50 or more employees who cannot work from home can now register for rapid lateral flow testing kits to distribute to staff.

What is rapid lateral flow testing?

Rapid lateral flow testing (LFT) is a means of testing people who show no symptoms.  It usually takes only 30 minutes and can be easily done at home or at a specialist LFT site.  

The method used is the same as the more traditional PCR test (i.e. a nose and throat swab) and then pacing the swab in a vial of liquid for 30 minutes before testing the liquid to see if the person has the infection.  Where the test comes up positive, the person is asked to confirm the test result with a standard PCR test.

LFT is not to be used for anyone with symptoms.  Anyone with symptoms is asked to attend a normal testing centre for the traditional Covid test.

It has been accepted that the LFT is not as accurate as the traditional PCR test.  However, making LFT widely available is considered to be key in assisting those who are asymptomatic know whether they have the virus (and thereby taking them out of circulation and risk of spreading the infection further by ensuring they self-isolate).  

Should employers sign up for LFT?

It is an employer’s duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of its employees.  Many jobs are unable to be carried out from home and for those LFT can assist the employer in discharging its duty.  Moreover, if an employer utilises the LFT wisely, it can protect its business from struggling to cope and averting all of its employees becoming affected.

Employers currently need to put in place measures to stop the risk of COVID spreading.  This includes social distancing, regular and thorough cleaning, masks and physical barriers and cleaning stations to name a few.  However, with LFT becoming more available, employers should consider also imposing strict “bubbles” within the workplace. LFT could therefore mean that where an employee tests positive, only that smaller bubble is at risk rather than the entire workplace.  

What if an employee refuses to take the test?

Employers should already have a COVID policy in place dealing with the measures all staff are required to take to keep the workplace safe.  The requirement for all staff to participate in LFT should be added to this and a further copy distributed to all staff.  This requirement would be considered a reasonable instruction by the employer (unless there are specific medical reasons for not doing so) and employees could face disciplinary action for refusing.  It is important to note that employees are also required to ensure the health and safety of not only themselves but those around them.  

For assistance with this or any employment-related area, please contact our Head of Employment, Ilinca Mardarescu.