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9th December 2020

Your Obligations With COVID-19 Positive Workers

Employers in England now face fines of up to £10,000 if they allow staff to work when they should be self-isolating. But, how will this be applied in practice?

On 28 September 2020, The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Self-Isolation (England) Regulations 2020 came into force. 

These new regulations place a legal obligation on employers to prevent staff attending work in two specific circumstances: 

  1. If an employer is aware that the staff member has tested positive for coronavirus; or 
  2. If the staff member is known to have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive and been instructed to self-isolate by NHS track and trace. 

The fine for the first offence has been set at £1,000. In the event of repeated infringements, it can rise to £10,000.

How Does It Work?

The rules apply when the worker should be self-isolating. 

Under the current guidelines, this is a period of ten days which starts from the date of the test or beginning of the symptoms, if applicable. The period goes on for longer if symptoms other than a cough or loss of taste/smell continue. 

If someone is self-isolating because of a close contact having a positive test, it is for 14 days from the date of the test.

Fortunately, the onus is entirely on the employees to inform their employer that they should be self-isolating. So, don’t worry you’re not expected to have a crystal ball or do any detective work in this regard. Workers now also face a potential £50 fine if they do not inform their employer that they must self-isolate.

However, it is recommended that businesses be proactive by making it clear to all staff that they must inform the company if they are required to self-isolate. You can ask them to obtain a self-isolation note or proof of a positive test where necessary.

Be aware that if colleagues of the affected worker fall under the definition of a ‘close contact’ then they will also need to self-isolate if informed to do so by an NHS contact tracer. It’s worth noting that if your colleagues are not notified, this means they do not need to self-isolate. Further guidance on this topic can be found in the link provided below.

Guidance for contacts of people with confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection who do not live with the person – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Managing Outbreaks

If you have more than one case in your workplace contact Public Health England (PHE) for advice, as this could be classed as an outbreak. PHE have a communication campaign on the action to take to respond to an early outbreak. They have produced Action Cards relevant to each sector which can be obtained by following the link below. It is recommended that these are printed off and prominently displayed for ease of reference in your workplace. 

Reporting an Outbreak – Coronavirus Resource centre (phe.gov.uk)

Need Specific Advice?

Our Health and Safety and Employment Law advice lines have both been extremely busy with COVID-19 related queries. But, if you do have any concerns in your workplace then do not hesitate to contact Lighthouse today on 0845 4591724 

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