Guidance on partial exemption from self-isolation for key workers

Please Note: All information correct at time of writing on 23 July 2021. We do our very best to make sure our information is as up to date as possible, but we’d encourage you to check the relevant government website for updates as they happen.

In the face of the growing crisis caused by high levels of close contact self-isolation, the government has now published more details on the partial exemption from self-isolation for certain key workers. This scheme will run until 16 August when contact self-isolation will no longer be necessary if an individual is fully vaccinated.


Which sectors are covered?

The guidance lists the following sectors but makes it clear that this is not a definitive list and if you think your sector meets the necessary criteria you should contact your relevant government department.

  • Energy
  • Civil nuclear
  • Digital infrastructure
  • Food production and supply
  • Waste
  • Water
  • Veterinary medicines
  • Essential chemicals
  • Essential transport
  • Medicines
  • Medical devices
  • Clinical consumable supplies
  • Emergency services
  • Border control
  • Essential defence outputs
  • Local government


How does the scheme work?

The scheme applies where:

  • The key worker is fully vaccinated (at least 14 days after receiving their second dose)
  • The requirement to self-isolate is through close contact with a positive case
  • The key worker has no symptoms and has not tested positive
  • The employer has received a letter from the relevant government department listing the worker’s name as an individual to whom the scheme applies
  • Permission for the worker to leave self-isolation to attend work is subject to the employer putting in place certain controls to mitigate the risk of increased infection
  • The worker may only leave self-isolation for the purpose of undertaking the critical work (and travelling to and from work). They must self-isolate at all other times.


What do you have to show for your worker to be accepted under the scheme?

The test which will be applied is whether :

  1. the individual works in “critical elements of national infrastructure” and
  2. whether their absence “would be likely to lead to the loss or compromise of this infrastructure resulting in one or both of the following:
  • major detrimental impact on the availability, integrity or delivery of essential services – including those services whose integrity, if compromised, could result in significant loss of life or casualties
  • significant impact on national security, national defence, or the functioning of the state”

It will not cover most of the workers in a particular sector and the example given in the guidance is that it may be appropriate for a railway signalling role but generally not for individual train drivers.


What should you do if you want your workers to be covered by the scheme?

If you believe the absence of a worker would cause serious disruption to critical services, you should contact the relevant government department (see table below) setting out:

  • the number of people you think should be covered under the scheme
  • the roles those individuals need to perform
  • the impact failure to do their role would have and when this impact is likely to materialise (for example, is it already an issue or likely to be an issue soon)

If the request is accepted, you’ll receive a letter from the relevant department setting out the named critical workers to whom this will apply. This letter will also explain the measures you and those workers need to follow.

Unless this letter is received, you and your workers should continue to follow the usual self-isolation rules.


Application contact details for the 16 sectors identified

Department Main sector Contact details
BEIS Energy

Civil nuclear
DCMS Digital infrastructure
Defra Food production and supply, Water, Veterinary medicines, Essential chemicals
DfT Essential transport
DHSC Medicines, Medical devices, Clinic consumable supplies
Home Office Emergency services, Border Control
MoD Essential defence outputs
MHCLG Local government
Remember, if you have any questions about this legal update for your business, you can call our 24/7 advice line on 0345 844 4848.

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