In a recent Financial Times article (Ignites Europe), Caroline Walker, Managing Director of Cavendish Employment Law, comments on how firms are preparing for the new normal as office work returns. Caroline's comments from the article are noted below:
"It is becoming increasingly common for employers to require negative Covid tests before returning to the office, or upon arrival, due to the ease and speed of carrying out the lateral flow tests”.
Ms Walker says companies have concluded that “it would be reasonable to ask employees to have a Covid test, particularly if they may work in close contact with others or attend meetings where it may not be possible or practical to socially distance”.
A study conducted by the University of Oxford and Public Health England’s Porton Down lab last year found that while the tests picked up 79 per cent of Covid cases when carried out by trained scientists, in the hands of ordinary members of the public the sensitivity rate of the tests dropped to 58 per cent.
Ms Walker says employers will need to keep in mind the inaccuracy of the tests and “ensure not only that social distancing is maintained even when a test is negative, but also to follow up any positive test with a period of isolation or [polymerase chain reaction, or PCR] test”.
The results of PCR tests, which look for smaller fragments of a virus and therefore are deemed to be more accurate, are analysed in a laboratory, which means it can take up to five days for a result to be provided.
Concerns around where employees would sit while waiting for their test results, the potential for employees to catch the virus from a colleague while waiting for a result and how the employee should be sent home if they test positive are all considerations that asset managers are weighing up at present, according to Mr Sinclair.
Ms Walker adds that “turning staff away due to a positive test result will potentially be exposing the security staff to challenge”.
“In order to support them, companies should have well-drafted policies ensuring that all employees are aware of the policy and the sanctions for failing to comply.”