Currently, it is a legal requirement for most individuals to self-isolate if they or someone they live with has COVID symptoms or tests positive, they have returned from a “red list” country, or they have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace.
Now, failure to do so, or an employer insisting an employee comes to work, can result in fines starting at £1,000 for the first offence and increasing to £10,000 for the fourth and subsequent offences.
What are the changes?
From 9th August in Scotland and 16th August in England the government intends to exempt those who are fully vaccinated (or under the age of 18) from the requirement to self-isolate for 10 days if they are a contact of a positive COVID case. Instead, if the individual has been double vaccinated (at least two weeks ago), or is under 18 years of age, and has no symptoms, they don’t need to self-isolate.
While there is no legal requirement to take a PCR test, individuals are encouraged to do so and if the test is positive, they will need to isolate.
What does this mean for employers?
To comply with these changes, it is arguable that employers will need to know which of their staff have been double vaccinated, but not everyone is willing to share this information with their employer.
The Information Commissioner’s Office recently published advice confirming that, to be processed lawfully, the collection of vaccination data must be necessary and relevant for a specific purpose. Each business will therefore need to determine what its aim is in collecting such data. Further, as employee medical information is “special category data”, collection of this data should be done with care, and in accordance with UK data privacy law.
There may also be increased discussions as to whether employers can enforce mandatory vaccination at the workplace, not only to ensure the health and safety of staff, but also to maintain business continuity.
Vaccination is a difficult and sensitive area with strong arguments on both sides, so all decisions and the rationale should be carefully documented and form part of a detailed risk assessment taking into account other measures to keep staff safe and maintain business continuity.
If you would like some advice on putting a policy in place for self-isolating in your workplace after 16th August, please get in touch with Sean McDonough on 01225 750 000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.