In its guidance to the use of lateral flows tests (LFTs) to detect the presence of Covid-19, government issued specific advice for employers.
Where routine screening of employees using LFTs is conducted, it is recommended that it be administered regardless of whether or not persons are fully vaccinated, and as a minimum recommended standard, tests should be conducted twice weekly, with each test taken within a minimum of three days of each other.
Employers can choose to set up their own workplace testing, or hire a third-party provider to administer the tests. Employers can also provide employees with test kits and ask employees to carry out tests at home before attending the office and can choose to implement appropriate protocols for confirming that the tests have been administered as requested and to confirm the results.
Where testing is implemented in the workplace by employers, the employers can choose to implement the testing as a voluntary regime to which the employee is invited to participate, in order to encourage the health and safety of the entire workplace.
Where a testing regime is mandatory, it is recommended that employers conduct a comprehensive assessment of any legal issues before introducing such a policy. Where testing is introduced into the workplace by employers, the plans in respect of workplace testing should be set out in a formal workplace testing policy document. This policy should help to provide employees with sufficient information and assist in enabling testing to be carried out privately, fairly, and consistently.
The guidance states that employers should engage with employees prior to introducing employee testing. The testing regime must be carried out in a manner that is compliant with the Data Protection Act (2021 Revision) and its requirements for the storing and processing of sensitive personal data relating to the health of the employees. Where LFTs are used for screening testing within an organisation, they must be implemented as part of a layered approach that includes other prevention measures, as the tests alone cannot be relied on as a means of completely eradicating Covid infections within the organisation, even if employees are entirely compliant.
Government will initially cover the costs associated with procuring LFTs to be used for screening testing employees within the Civil Service and the wider public service. Statutory authorities and government companies that wish to obtain test kits which have been procured by Government, should liaise with their respective Ministries.
All test kits for screening and surveillance testing using LFTs for staff, teachers and children/students in educational institutions, both government and private, will be provided by the government and are free of charge to staff, teachers, and children/students. For avoidance of doubt, “educational institutions” means early childhood care and education centres, schools, and post compulsory educational organisations such as colleges or universities. Supplies of test kits will initially be provided to staff, teachers, and children/students for routine screening and, in the event of an outbreak or a positive case, additional supplies will be provided for those individuals only. In any other scenario, the full cost of implementing a screening regime using LFTs, including the purchase of LFT kits, must be borne by the employer, organisation, or individual.