The government has announced plans to increase workplace testing for coronavirus during the lockdown.
The move came weeks after Public Health England data revealed that there were more outbreaks in offices compared with other workplaces over the current lockdown period.
The figures showed there were more than 60 suspected Covid outbreaks in offices in January this year. The data also showed there were more than 500 outbreaks, or suspected outbreaks in offices in the second half of 2020, which was more than in supermarkets, construction sites, warehouses, restaurants and cafés combined.
The new government drive is to detect coronavirus (Covid-19) in people who are not showing symptoms.
The criteria for joining the workplace testing programme is reduced to businesses with more than 50 employees, boosting the availability of rapid testing further. The government has tasked Cabinet ministers “to encourage their sectors to take up the offer of rapid workplace testing, marking efforts to normalise testing in the workplace across both public and private sectors”.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “We are already working with many employers to scale up workforce testing, spanning the food industry, retail sector, transport network, and across the public sector too. I strongly urge businesses and employees across the country to take up this offer of rapid testing to help stop this virus spreading further.”
Kate Palmer, HR advice and consultancy director at Peninsula, said: “Although the government are keen to encourage as many companies as possible to implement mass testing if they have at least 50 members of staff, employers should still proceed with caution when attempting to enforce testing requirements. Getting a test is not a legal requirement, and no individual can lawfully be forced to receive one, as such an action could be considered assault.
She added: “Instead of enforcement, it will likely be much more effective to outline to staff why these tests are necessary and encourage them to have one when offered. They should also be reminded that, if they unreasonably refuse to get tested, it may be necessary to prevent them from being admitted into the workplace due to the safety of their colleagues.”