What to do if your employee tests COVID positive

Workers are now legally obliged to inform you if they have tested positive for COVID, or someone in their household has.  So what do you do if your employee has tested COVID positive?

How long do they need to isolate?

The main symptoms of COVID-19 are:

  • a new continuous cough
  • a high temperature
  • a loss or change in sense of taste and/or smell

If your employee develops symptoms or has a positive COVID test, they must self-isolate for 10 days.  That 10 days begins from:

  • the onset of symptoms
  • the date of the test, if they have no symptoms
  • if they then develop symptoms, 10 days from the date symptoms start

Your employee must self isolate for 14 days if:

  • they live in the same household as someone who has tested positive
  • they are told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace

If your employee is told to self-isolate, they should provide you with an isolation note.

What must I pay them while they are isolating?

Your employee may be able to continue working from home while they are self-isolating.  If not, they are entitled to sick pay.  That will be the greater of what is in your employment contract or Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

SSP is £95.85 per week, for up to 28 weeks.  Normally the first three days of SSP are unpaid.  For COVID absences, SSP is payable from day one.  You may be able to reclaim the cost from the Government.

What if I can’t let them self-isolate?

Your employees can be fined for not self-isolating.  You can be too.

If you knowingly allow an employee to work (other than from home) who has been instructed to self-isolate, you can face a fine of between £1,000 -£10,000.

Who is a “close contact” and may also be COVID positive?

No doubt you will be frantically considering who else could be infected.  Think about who your employee has come into close contact with.  According to the NHS Website, close contact is defined as:

“A person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 anytime from two days before the person was symptomatic up to 10 days from onset of symptoms.

This could be a person who:

  • spends significant time in the same household
  • is a sexual partner
  • has had face-to-face contact (within one metre), including (a) being coughed on, (b) having skin-to-skin physical contact or, (c) contact within one metre for one minute
  • has been within two metres of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes
  • has travelled in a small vehicle, or in a large vehicle or plane

Where an interaction between two people has taken place through a Perspex (or equivalent) screen, this would not be considered sufficient contact, provided that there has been no other contact such as any of those indicated above.”

The wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) will generally not be considered sufficient mitigation.

What do I tell my staff?

Relevant staff will need to be made aware that someone has tested COVID positive and that they have been in close contact.  You should not reveal the name of the person. That is personal information.

At this stage, close contacts do not need to self-isolate, unless requested to do so by NHS Test and Trace or a public health professional.  However, they should take extra care with social distancing and practice good hygiene.  They should also avoid contact with those at an increased level of risk.

Advise your employees to be vigilant.  They should self-isolate and arrange a test if they show signs of COVID-19.

If you have more than one case in your workplace, you should report it to your local health protection team.

How do I minimise the impact?

When businesses first returned to work after lockdown, they were required to do a risk assessment.  I think we have all become drained by COVID.  Some of the steps we first took may have fallen by the wayside.  It is time to dust off those risk assessments.  Look at whether things have slipped and put those practices into place again.  If you haven’t had an outbreak at work, great.  You have a window of opportunity.  Think again how you can minimise contacts and reduce the number of people affected, should one of your employees develop COVID.

If you need further support, please contact me.



Categories Health and Safety, Sickness, Uncategorized