We give you 5 good reasons why it’s the responsible thing to do.
Schools in England have been back since the 8th of March and large-scale lateral flow testing has been helping to keep them open. With the rest of the country looking to open up, businesses are looking for ways of protecting staff, customers and visitors. The government has already announced that small businesses (over 50 employees) not just larger companies will have access to government funded Lateral Flow testing. Many have already adopted regular rapid testing; others are planning to do that when the country fully opens.
One way or another, testing is here to stay. We will and already are getting used to it like we all did with mask wearing.
There are of course many questions raised starting from the ethical to the downright practical: why are we do it, how are we doing it and what do we actually get out of it.
Outside a few key areas of business adopting regular testing and vaccination status monitoring is voluntary.
There is ongoing debate, not just here in the UK, but world-wide as to whether testing or vaccinations be mandatory. Legislation in the UK is very clear: testing and vaccinations are voluntary, under normal circumstances, an employer cannot use this status to discriminate between employees, a business cannot refuse customers if they choose not to be tested or vaccinated. There are some extremely specific exceptions, but this article is not about doing anything by force. It’s about why it’s a good thing to choose it.
If you ‘d like to know more about the legal aspects, the ICO has lots of information and case studies to help you navigate this complex area: https://ico.org.uk/global/data-protection-and-coronavirus-information-hub/coronavirus-recovery-data-protection-advice-for-organisations/
For many businesses, it is not an esoteric question, they are evaluating some very simple questions:
- Would regular testing and recording immunisation status help me to improve how I serve my customers?
- Will it help me look after my employees?
- How will it affect my bottom line?
- If I decide to do it, how can I get it done with the minimum amount of distraction and disruption?
In an earlier article I recommended having a Covid19 Toolkit including a Communications Plan which is a good place to start.
Testing and vaccination status are sensitive topics, I would recommend starting an open discussion with your staff: how they feel about being tested, what risks they see in adopting regular point of care testing. Through an open debate, you can easily provide information to staff. There is support also if you need it. The RSPH and NHS England provide lots of material for “moving the Needle” https://www.rsph.org.uk/our-work/policy/vaccinations/moving-the-needle-promoting-vaccination-uptake-across-the-life-course.html
Once you and your staff have taken a decision, you will need a plan. It needs to be systematic, transparent and fair. This is the best way to avoid discrimination and the appearance of unfair practices.
However, all this means that outcomes of both testing and vaccination status should be kept as part of your records. Health status is sensitive information and needs to be handled with additional security.
It can be simple, if you use the right tools or a minefield if you use paper and Excel.
Some companies try to carry out testing but don’t record the outcome, or only record if somebody has reported positive. The BIG problem with this is what does an absence of result mean: was there a test that was negative or simply no test? How do you know/how can you check if somebody simply forgot to test or even forgot to send you the results after testing? Tricky. As well as know who did what, you also need to know who missed what and when.
Fortunately, the government is helping in two ways:
First, by providing test kits free of charge through the Workplace test scheme: https://www.gov.uk/get-workplace-coronavirus-tests.
They also funded the development of a new online tool (through Innovate UK) WorkScreener Covid Manager that manages the entire process with a few clicks, supports bulk uploading of testing data and puts control and information into the hands of managers of businesses regarding their workforce’s safety. There is a small charge for this, much reduced by the funding in place.
Some employees would prefer to carry out tests in their home. This is a big bonus of rapid testing, they can collect a set of tests and keep using them, letting you know the results before they leave home. It is much better to find out that somebody tested positive before they come into the office, right? This is not something you want to do on Excel, although lots of people send in emails. They do this without realising that this is sensitive information they are emailing, and their HR manager should not be asking them to do this in the first place. You will need a system that works remotely, like the WorkScreener Covid Manager.
A good example is a firm of estate agents: in February they decided that the best thing was regular testing of staff, and they built this into their local marketing campaign: letting potential house buyers and tenants know that testing staff is part of how they look after their customers. Virtual tours will only go so far, but regular testing helps. They are also recording testing of their regular contractors and maintenance providers. Right now, they do most of their work online still, but they want to get into the habit of scaling up when the market really picks up. They could do this quite easily as they collected Lateral flow test kits from the Workplace test scheme. They test at home, pop their test details into the WorkScreener Covid manager and their office manager uploads the test details in bulk.
Other companies prefer not to participate in the government scheme, but they still have the same obligations of keeping secure and confidential records.
With the proportion of vaccination people increasing in the workforce, it now makes sense to record it at the same time. Some people cannot be or will not be vaccinated, but knowing their status gives you an option to change working practices support them or their colleagues.
So here are the 5 good reasons why you should track your employee’s covid testing and vaccination status:
- If you track it, you can make it systematic, transparent and fair. If you don’t you are at the mercy of office gossip and potential for discrimination.
- This is useful information that protects not just your staff but also your clients and partners. You can use it for demonstrating that you care.
- You will make better decisions and hopefully avoid an outbreak at your workplace.
- It is what a responsible employer would do, looking after both staff and clients and support returning to normal as soon as we are able to.
- It is quite easy to do and once you start it can become just part of your workplace’s routine, just like washing hands and online calls.