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What are the legal obligations between notification by NHS Test and Trace and being ‘pinged’?

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

An employer should not be asking employees who are notified to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace to attend work in breach of their legal obligations. If notified to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, it is a legal requirement to do so for the period notified, which is usually 10 days.

However, if employees are ‘pinged’ by the NHS COVID-19 App, there is no legal obligation to self-isolate at present; the guidance is that it is advisable for individuals to self-isolate. The government message as of 20 July 2021 was that it is crucial that such individuals self-isolate, but it has not yet taken steps to make it mandatory to do so and, in the circumstances, they can exercise discretion.

Employers need to consider in advance how they will respond to those who are pinged by the NHS COVID-19 App. It might be useful to create a policy to deal with this situation, and to keep the policy under review, depending on whether the government will amend the guidance. Where possible, in order to support employees in following the guidance to self-isolate, it is reasonable for employers to permit them to work from home for the self-isolation period. However, where they cannot work from home, the employer’s next consideration is whether it is reasonable to require them to come into the workplace or, if not, whether they will be paid as normal, or move onto statutory sick pay (SSP).

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