COVID testing update – free home testing for employees available in England

The government’s push for businesses to adopt regular COVID testing of employees received another boost on Sunday when they announced that they will make free rapid home test kits available to companies who do not have the on-site testing capability required by the current workplace testing programme.

Tests will be available from 6 April and employers must register their interest online by 12 April. Businesses are encouraged to register now, even if they are not open yet and therefore not in a position to start testing.

The test kits will be available free of charge until at least the end of June.

Employers must have at least 10 employees to access home testing kits under the scheme. Those with fewer employees can continue to access testing through local community testing sites and there are plans to introduce a system whereby employees in small businesses will be able to order tests online to be sent to their home.

Businesses will order the home test kits through the scheme and then distribute them to employees who will then report their results to the NHS using the address provided.

The Department of Health and Social Care release states:

“As well as reporting their result directly to the NHS, employees should advise their employer of a positive result and take a confirmatory PCR test. Employers will retain an important role in encouraging their employees to take and report the results of their test.”

It’s important to note that while the need to confirm a lateral flow test with a PCR test was paused in England at the end of January, this does not apply to tests undertaken at home and employees testing positive should begin self-isolation immediately and arrange to have a PCR test.

Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director, was quoted saying:

“Mass, rapid workplace testing is an essential pillar of the roadmap for reopening, alongside the vaccine rollout. Having the option for staff to test at home will enable more firms to embrace workplace testing, as not all employers will have the space or facilities to run testing programmes on their premises. The move to home testing reflects ongoing, high quality dialogue between business and government. We’d encourage as many firms as possible to register before the 12 April deadline, as part of their broader efforts to keep staff and customers safe”.

What does this mean for business owners?

This is great news for small businesses who were keen to introduce regular testing but found on-site testing to be difficult or impractical. It’s worth noting that there is nothing in the government statement which supports a compulsory approach, with the emphasis being on encouragement.

If you’ve got questions about workplace testing, remember you can contact our advice line 24/7 on 0345 844 4848.

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