What are the new rules for those who have been double vaccinated or who are aged under 18 and 6 months?
From Monday 16 August, people who are double jabbed (unless an individual has not been able to get vaccinated for medical reasons) or aged under 18 years and 6 months (to allow for those just turned 18 to be vaccinated) will no longer be legally required to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case and have no symptoms. Those double vaccinated must have had their second vaccination at least 14 days prior to contact with a positive case.
Do staff have to tell you if they have been identified as a close contact?
If they test positive or are required to self-isolate because they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive, then they have a legal duty to self-isolate for at least 10 days unless they are exempt. They must inform you of this unless they can work from home where they are isolating. This applies if they have been notified by Test and Trace not the NHS app. However, if they are exempt and do not need to self-isolate, taking a PCR test is advisory (there is no legal duty to do so) so you may not know unless you specifically ask them to notify you if they are identified as a contact of someone with Covid-19.
What is close contact?
- anyone who lives in the same household as another person who has COVID-19 symptoms or has tested positive for COVID-19
- anyone who has had any of the following types of contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19:
- face-to-face contact including being coughed on or having a face-to-face conversation within one metre
- been within one metre for one minute or longer without face-to-face contact
- been within 2 metres of someone for more than 15 minutes (either as a one-off contact, or added up together over one day)
A person may also be a close contact if they have travelled in the same vehicle or plane as a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.
The time period for close contact is 2 days before the person who tested positive developed their symptoms (or if they did not have symptoms 2 days before the positive test was taken).
Will those with exemptions be advised to take a test?
Yes, close contacts who are identified as such by Test and Trace will be advised (this is not a legal duty) to take a PCR test (as long as they have not received a positive PCR test in the last 90 days) as soon as possible. They can order a PCR test online or by calling 119 or can go directly to a test site. Children under the age of 5 will only be advised to take a test if the positive case is within their own household. Children over the age of 5 will be advised to take a PCR test in all cases of close contact the same as double vaccinated adults.
Do individuals need to isolate while they wait for the test result?
No, you do not need to isolate whilst you wait for the result of the PCR test if you have no symptoms and are a close contact.
Does this include if the positive case is within your household?
Are any other precautions recommended?
Yes, as double vaccinated people are still at risk of being infected, people are advised to consider other precautions such as wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces, and to limit contact with other people, particularly anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable and test using lateral flow tests. These precautions are recommended for 10 full days after the most recent contact with the person who has tested positive. If the person, then gets symptoms they must isolate and take a further test.
What if the PCR test result is positive?
If an individual tests positive following a PCR test and are double vaccinated, they will still be required by law to self-isolate. The same as anyone who gets Covid-19 symptoms and is double vaccinated should get a PCR test and should remain in isolation until the result is returned.
Can we ask staff if they have been double vaccinated and are therefore exempt?
Yes, but you do need to consider GDPR if you are planning on recording this data. This may depend on the type of business, how much direct contact they have with others and whether they work with the clinically vulnerable. Legally, the duty to self-isolate is with the individual. However, an employer will commit an offence if they knowingly allow someone who ought to be self-isolating attend work. It is advisory to therefore, communicate how you expect staff to behave once they have been identified as a close contact of someone with Covid-19. You can make it clear to them that if they come into work after receiving a notice to self-isolate, they are confirming that they are legally exempt from the duty to self-isolate and have taken a PCR test, if this turns out to be positive, they must isolate. If they do come into work when they should be self-isolating, you will treat this as a serious disciplinary offence, which could result in dismissal.
You are more likely to have a legal basis for retaining vaccination information from 16 August as the reason for collecting this information is clear where you have staff onsite, you need to ensure that your staff are legally able to attend the workplace after being in contact with someone who tests positive. In addition, you may need this information to protect other staff onsite. However, the ICO guidance still recommends you consider the sector you operate in, the kind of work staff do and health and safety risks in your workplace. Therefore, for homeworkers it is unlikely you will have a reason to ask for this information. The ICO guidance here is yet to be updated following the 16th August changes so keep an eye out for changes. If you are just doing a visual check of vaccination status and do not retain any information this won’t constitute ‘processing’ and won’t fall under GDPR scope. However, if you want to retain this information it will fall under GDPR. See a previous blog on vaccination status and GDPR HERE. You need to consider if you want to do checks or base it on trust.
What about those who haven’t been double vaccinated (unless there is a medical reason why they are not vaccinated)?
They will need to continue to self-isolate as instructed by Test and Trace if they are a close contact with a positive case. You must not allow anyone to work if they have been told to self-isolate directly by Test and Trace.
Can we compel staff to come into work if they are exempt from self-isolating?
Yes, as if they are exempt, they do not legally have to isolate.
What if someone is self-isolating before 16 August 2021, do they need to continue to self-isolate beyond that date?
If they would be exempt from self-isolating under the new rules, they can stop isolating from midnight on 15 August 2021. If they aren’t exempt, they would need to continue isolating.
Do these new rules apply to people who are ‘pinged’ via the app?
No, anyone who is pinged via the app is advised to self-isolate, but they are not legally required to do so.