Advice for employers
Test and Protect, Scotland’s approach to implementing the 'test, trace, isolate, support' strategy is a public health measure designed to break chains of transmission of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the community.
It will help us prepare for the next phases, where we are better able to identify where the infection is, so that society and the economy can avoid a return to lockdown and adapt to a new normal.
The Scottish Government and the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) made a joint statement on fair work expectations at the start of the pandemic, which still applies now: it said that no worker should be financially penalised by their employer for following medical advice, and any absence from work relating to COVID-19 should not affect future sick pay entitlement, result in disciplinary action or count towards any future sickness absence related action. This statement applies to workers who are sick or self-isolating under the Test and Protect strategy.
The NHS will test people who have symptoms, trace people who may have become infected by spending time in close contact with someone who tests positive, and then support those close contacts to self-isolate. That means if they have the virus they are less likely to pass it on to others. Employers will play a vital role in ensuring that their employees are aware of and able to follow the public
What to do
Employers should follow public health guidance if an employee becomes unwell with coronavirus symptoms at work. The person should leave work to self‑isolate straight away and, if possible, wear a face covering on route and avoid public transport. Direct your employees to www.nhsinform.scot or, if they can’t get online, call 0800 028 2816, to arrange to get tested.
Until they have been tested and told if it is safe to leave home, employers should make sure that staff do not have to, or feel that they have to, come in to work. Employees can request an isolation note through NHS Inform.
People who have tested positive for the virus will need to self-isolate for a minimum of 7 days.
NHS contact tracers will interview them and get in touch with people they have been in close contact with, and tell them they must self-isolate for 14 days. If your employees are informed by a contact tracer that they should isolate, you should help them to do so straight away. They may feel well, as the virus could still be incubating when they are asked to isolate. Some people who are asked to isolate may not become unwell, but they must stay at home and self-isolate for the full 14 days. You can ask them to work from home if they are able to and they are not unwell.
Please give as much support to your employees as you can while they are away, including by protecting their income. Do what you can to check in on them remotely and keep in touch as they self-isolate. Ask them if they need help with picking up food, medicine or other essentials, as they will not be able to leave the place they are self-isolating at all.
Employers should not ask someone isolating to come into work before their period of isolation is complete, in any circumstances.
Points to keep in mind
- Self-isolation may be required on more than one occasion.
- Anyone who has symptoms must self-isolate straight away, and use NHS Inform or call 0800 028 2816 to arrange a test.
- People who have tested positive for coronavirus must self-isolate for a minimum of 7 days from the time their symptoms started.
- Close contacts of someone who has tested positive identified by an NHS contact tracer will have to self-isolate for 14 days. This could mean colleagues of an employee with symptoms may have been close contacts, and may be asked by the NHS to self-isolate if that employee does test positive.
- NHS contact tracers may require someone to self-isolate even if they have previously tested positive for coronavirus and have recovered.
The success of Test and Protect as a public health intervention will depend on the continued willingness of everyone in the population to comply with these measures. Employers should support their employees to do so.
When an employee needs to self-isolate
There are three scenarios in which your employee would have to self-isolate for an extended period:
- they have symptoms of coronavirus
- they have been informed by an NHS contact tracer that they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive
- they live with a person who has symptoms or has tested positive
Employee has symptoms of coronavirus.
They need to self-isolate straight away, and contact the NHS to arrange to be tested.
If the test is positive, they need to continue to self-isolate for 7 days from the time their symptoms started.
If they feel well enough after 7 days, and have not had a high temperature for 48 hours (without taking any medicines to treat a high temperature) they can return to work. It is not unusual for people to feel unwell for longer than 7 days even in milder cases.
If the test is negative, they can return to work when they feel well enough.
Some workers may be tested without experiencing symptoms, and if they are confirmed to have the disease asymptomatically they would self-isolate for 7 days from the date of the test.
If for any reason they cannot access a test, they need to continue to self-isolate for 7 days from the time their symptoms started. They can then return to work if they feel well and have not had a high temperature for 48 hours (without taking any medicines to treat a high temperature).
Employee has been informed by an NHS contact tracer that they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive.
They need to self-isolate for 14 days.
Employees can be asked to work from home if they are able to and are not unwell.
If they develop symptoms within the 14 days, they need to stay at home for 7 days from the day their symptoms began. They should do this even if it takes them over the 14-day isolation period.
Employee lives with someone who has symptoms or who has tested positive.
Follow advice above for those who have been told by the NHS they have been in close contact with someone who has coronavirus.
If the person with symptoms tests negative, everyone in the household can end isolation and the employee can return to work.