My employee has been ‘pinged’ by the NHS COVID-19 app, what shall I do?

My employee has been ‘pinged’ by the NHS COVID-19 app, what shall I do?

There appears to be considerable confusion over the current rules relating to self isolation when an individual has (or may have) been in close contact with another who then tests positive for COVID-19.    With record numbers of people being ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid-19 app, this is having a real impact on some employers’ ability to keep their businesses going.     In this bulletin we take a look at the different ways in which individuals can be asked to self isolate and consider how employers should respond in the workplace

Firstly, it is important to be aware that there are two distinct ways in which an individual can be notified about self-isolation:

  1. an employee can be contacted by NHS Track and Trace; or
  2. an employee can be ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid-19 app.

There seems to be a mix up and the two phrases are being used as if it is one and the same thing. They are not.   

“Track and trace” is a legal obligation.  The employee and the employer should comply with whatever self-isolation limits are being placed upon the employee (usually 10 days).  The employer should not be requiring the employee to come to the workplace and to do so would be a breach of their legal obligations. 

“Pinged” by the app is a guideline only and not a legal requirement, at the current time, to self-isolate. If the employee can work safely (and you must take into account the employer’s health and safety arrangements and conduct a risk assessment) the employee may be asked to come in to work and that request may be reasonable. It is case by case.  “Reasonable” can include PPE and lateral flow tests and social distancing steps being put in place.  

Employers should consider now how they are going to deal with the situation where employees are ‘pinged’.   It may be advisable to put a policy in place, which will need to be regularly reviewed, in line with government guidance.  An employer may wish to consult with staff about how they will feel working with someone who has been ‘pinged’.  Asking staff whether they have any ideas as to how best to mitigate the risks, given their regular interaction working with that person, could be very helpful.  An employer will need to keep in mind the impact of this situation on staff anxiety levels.  

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