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Can you test employees before they return to work?

Posted on: May 4th, 2020 by Ginny Hallam

Testing for coronavirus is currently prioritised for specified groups (find out more here).  We’re waiting to see if, or when, it will become available for all.

If your employees fall into one of the groups specified, you may want to ask for evidence of their test results before they return to work. Alternatively, you may want them to undergo a test at work which might include temperature testing. Here are our recommendations on how to approach this tricky area…

  1. Have a written policy in place – letting your employees know how, when and why you might test them and what the outcomes might be depending on their results. Where they’ve already been tested, require them to keep the test results safe and share them with you when asked. Click here for our ‘safe return to work’ policy.
  2. Protection – you should make clear that refusing to be tested may be grounds for disciplinary action, so make it clear you’re testing to keep them, their colleagues and your customers safe.
  3. Data protection impact assessment – you’ll need to complete one if you’re planning to record any test results as you’ll be storing sensitive personal data. This will help you minimise the risks in storing the information and provide a documented audit trail.
  4. Consent not required –  although testing data is classified as ‘sensitive’, you have a legitimate business reason and testing is in the public’s interest. Consent can be easily withdrawn so try to avoid wherever possible.
  5. Sending someone home – if you’re testing and an employee’s results come back positive or they record a high temperature but they are otherwise fit to work, you may need to pay them in full if you send them home. This is because you’re asking them not to work in order to protect others, and not because they’re not well enough themselves to work.

If you’re in the process of returning employees back to work, click here to access our Post-furlough Guidance Note.

This update is accurate on the date it was produced (04 May 2020), but may be subject to change which may or may not be notified to you. This update is not to be taken as advice and you should seek advice if anything contained within affects you or your business.