NHS Test and Trace workplace guidance updated

3 mins

Posted on 17 Aug 2021

NHS Test and Trace workplace guidance updated

Changes to self-isolation rules

The NHS Test and Trace in the workplace guidance has been updated to reflect changes to the self-isolation rules for contacts of a person who has tested positive for Covid-19. Changes to the self-isolation rules came into effect on 16 August. The changes aim to reduce the number of people self-isolating because they have been in contact with a positive Covid-19 case. Many businesses have been put under extreme pressure because so many workers were required to self-isolate or pinged by the Covid-19 app, leading to the so-called “pingdemic”.

NHS Test and Trace

Until 16 August, anyone contacted by NHS Test and Trace because they had been identified as a close contact of someone who had tested positive for Covid-19 was legally required to self-isolate. From 16 August an exemption from the legal obligation to self-isolate was introduced for those who:       

  • Are fully vaccinated
  • Are below the age of 18 years and 6 months  
  • Have taken part in or are currently part of an approved Covid-19 vaccine trial 
  • Are not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons  

A person is fully vaccinated if they have 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.

Covid-19 App notification 

Until 16 August, anyone who received a notification from the NHS Covid-19 app that they had been in contact with someone who had tested positive was advised (but not legally required) to self-isolate.    From 16 August, an individual who receives a contact alert via the app will not be advised to self-isolate if they are under 18 and 6 months, fully vaccinated or otherwise exempt. 

Recommendations replacing self-isolation

Instead of self-isolation, exempt individuals will be advised to take a PCR test and will not need to self-isolate while they wait for the result. However, 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

Employer Guidance

If a worker is due to work somewhere other than their place of self-isolation (i.e. those who are not working from home) and they are contacted by NHS Test and Trace and instructed to self-isolate, they have a legal duty to inform their employer of this. It is an offence for an employer to allow a worker to attend the workplace if they are aware that the worker is legally required to self-isolate.

 From 16 August, workers who are exempt from self-isolation rules do not need to tell their employer that they have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace. Employers are not expected to check whether an individual is exempt from self-isolation.

 There is no legal obligation for any worker to tell their employer that they have received a notification via the Covid-19 app. However, where a worker who is not exempt from self-isolation guidance informs their employer that they have received a notification, the employer is strongly encouraged to support the employee to self-isolate. 

Key Contacts

Tina Wisener

Tina succeeded Peter Doyle as Chief Executive on 1 January 2024. She has long been recognised as one of the UKs leading employment lawyers and is ranked in the top tier of The Legal 500 and Chambers guides to the UK Legal Profession.

  • Chief Executive
  • T: +44 (0)118 951 6760
  • Email me

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Dan Begbie-Clench

Dan specialises in employment law and advises a range of companies and senior executives, partners and employees. He is known for commercial and responsive advice. He is recommended for his work in the leading legal directories, the Chambers UK Guide and The Legal 500 Guide.

  • Partner & Head of Canary Wharf Office
  • T: +44 (0)20 7778 7225
  • Email me

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The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.

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