Many businesses will be mass testing for COVID-19 as they bring back their workforce. We are all able to take a rapid lateral flow test (LFT) at home twice a week, but it is important for you to have a plan in place if you want to mass test your employees.

It has become more important than ever to provide the public with easy access to COVID testing. One in three people with coronavirus will experience no symptoms and could easily spread the virus without even knowing it.

This is why at-home testing is being so freely offered to all. Rapid testing detects cases quickly so that those with positive results can isolate themselves immediately and reduce transmission.

How will this affect mass testing COVID-19 at my business?

If you are hoping to implement mass testing on-site for your employees, but see no way to do so within your business, free at-home testing is being offered to companies with over 10 workers.

Your testing programme may not be connected to the Government’s rapid testing initiative, in which case it is unlikely that you will be affected. However, if you have registered for either the on-site rapid testing programme or the at-home expansion of it, you may be positively affected by the new development.

This is because the rapid test kits offered to employers are only free until the end of June 2021, meaning you would need to pay for the kits from July onwards. With this new development, however, it seems that rapid test kits will be readily available to everyone for free for as long as it is required.

It would be best to keep up with Government guidance going forward. We are also adding COVID updates that we think can help you and your business. Sign up for our newsletter to receive the most important updates on a monthly basis.

Are your employees worried about returning to work?

The long period of working from home can affect your employees. Of course, they’ll be used to it by now, but there will be many factors that could make them anxious or concerned about their return to the workplace.

This is understandable given the circumstances. After all, we have all been so used to keeping a distance from one another that being thrown back into the working environment and amongst colleagues may well seem a daunting experience to some.

Speaking to your employees

Having a conversation with your employees will help you understand who is reluctant to return and, hopefully, why. Keep in mind any specific circumstances of theirs and you should manage to come to an arrangement that suits both them and the needs of the business.

Government guidance currently calls for everybody to work from home if they can. Until this changes, you should not be forcing anybody to come back to work unless absolutely necessary for their job role.

Resolving any issues

Make sure your workplace is COVID secure. Highlight any measures being taken by the business that ensures the safety of its employees: you might be implementing social distancing measures or carrying out mass on-site testing for example.

If a reluctant employee is still unhappy to return, it could be worth waiting until they have had their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

When to take disciplinary action

Should you reach an agreed return date for the employee and they decide they still don’t want to come back to work, this can be treated as unauthorised absence and so disciplinary action could be an option.

In any case, you should make it clear to employees that a disciplinary route may be considered in the event of refusal to work.

There are several ways you could avoid such an option:

  • taking up of annual leave
  • continuation of homeworking until government guidance changes
  • another suitable adjustment according to the employee’s situation

Have these conversations with your employee. It’s important to understand where they are how they feel and whether or not they have been affected negatively by the long period of staying at home.

Easing them back to normality may be the best thing for them, but don’t ignore the needs of your business either!