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Now that ‘Freedom Day’ is upon us, many businesses will be looking for some sense of normality by encouraging staff to return to the workplace. As we’ve seen in the media though, COVID-19 cases are rising again rapidly, so many organisations will still be looking to exercise caution regarding a return to the workplace. Lateral flow testing still remains one of the best ways for businesses to screen their staff when returning to work, and here we look at some things you’ll need to consider when it comes to COVID-19 testing in the workplace.
The short answer is no, there is no legal requirement for businesses to test staff for COVID upon returning to the workplace, or to provide COVID tests for staff to use.
What you are required to do, however, is risk-assess your workplace in relation to COVID transmission, much like you would perform a risk assessment for fire safety or working at heights. As part of this risk assessment, you may identify that there is a higher chance of transmission in the workplace based on certain aspects of work that is performed, so you may decide that regular lateral flow testing should form part of your risk management plan to help prevent the illness from spreading.
For example, if two employees work in close proximity for a whole day and are unable to distance, then a mask may not offer adequate protection. In this instance, you may decide that regular COVID testing is the best way to keep both staff members safe and to reduce the risk of transmission in the workplace.
There are numerous factors to consider when deciding to offer staff COVID testing. Firstly, consider things from the perspective of a staff member:
A lot of these questions will be down to your company policies and culture, but taking the time to explain to staff why you want to provide testing and how it will help them is usually a good step to take.
Secondly, you’ll also need to consider the perspective of the business, and weigh the costs against the benefits:
These factors will be down to your individual business, but taking the time to draw up a clear proposal as to the benefits and costs of employee COVID testing is key in deciding whether it’s necessary for your organisation or not.
There are two main types of COVID-19 tests available currently – PCR tests and lateral flow tests. Put simply, PCR tests are the ones you’ll find at testing sites, which are sent away to labs for analysis. Generally speaking, these are the most accurate tests when performed properly. These tests are designed to be used only by people who are displaying symptoms or have been asked to take a test by their local authority. PCR tests shouldn’t form a core part of your business testing plan, other than telling symptomatic workers to go for a test.
Lateral flow tests, on the other hand, are designed for people showing no symptoms and should be performed regularly as part of a staff screening programme. These tests are often far simpler to administer and results are available much more quickly than PCR tests – often in just 15 minutes. Lateral flow tests are sometimes considered to be less accurate than PCR tests, but this can often be down to the user not performing the test correctly, and therefore not collecting a proper sample.
When sourcing an appropriate lateral flow test for your business, you should be looking for kits with high accuracy that are MHRA-registered self-tests and are CE-marked for home use. Essentially, this means that they can be performed easily and safely by your staff, and are highly likely to show an accurate result.
We’ve been testing in-house and supplying our clients with ACON Flowflex Rapid Lateral Flow Tests since the beginning of the year and firmly believe these to be the best option available on the market currently.
Whatever the future looks like for your business in terms of working, testing may well form a key part of your plans. Fundamentally, it’s important to ensure any decisions you make in regard to testing staff are carefully thought through and the costs and benefits for your business are weighed.
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