Q: What steps should I take to be sure we capture the right details to trace customers in the event of an outbreak and avoid a fine?

Hospitality and non-essential retail are gradually open up in accordance with the government’s roadmap out of lockdown with some re-opening from 12 April 2021 subject to certain restrictions. It is assumed that employers in certain sectors in the hospitality, tourism and leisure industry, close contact services and local authority facilities must continue to take details of staff, customers and visitors to help identify and notify people who may have been exposed to the virus. However, government guidance will clarify if these steps will continue to apply as increasing numbers of customers are vaccinated.

Assuming that the capture of details will continue, the main steps are:

  • asking at least one member of every party of customers or visitors to provide their name and contact details
  • retaining a record of all staff with shift times on any given day and their contact details
  • keeping the records of customers, visitors and staff for 21 days
  • providing the data to NHS Test and Trace if requested
  • paying a data protection fee.

The hospitality businesses must also refuse entry to their venue to anyone who refuses to supply their details. A business that already takes bookings online using customer information, for example a restaurant, can use that information for the check in details but should tell the customer they have done so. Customer details gathered should only be used for NHS Test and Trace not for marketing purposes, unless data was already held for marketing.

Any venues introducing a new system for gathering contact details should keep records to show they did a data protection impact assessment and minimised data protection risks. All organisations processing personal information, including contact tracing for COVID-19, must register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and pay a data protection fee of £40 or £60 unless they are exempt. The ICO website has guidance on contact tracing.

Some parties are exempt from supplying their details:

  • Police officers or emergency responders such as an ambulance person or firefighter on duty
  • Delivery drivers
  • Those aged under 16
  • Those with a disability or without the mental capacity.

Which businesses need to take customer details?

Contact details need to be captured in pubs, bars, restaurants, cafés, hotels, museums, cinemas, amusement arcades, hairdressers, barbers and tailors, community centres, libraries, village halls nail bars and salons, skin and body piercing services, sports and massage therapists, tattooists ,bed and breakfast accommodation, boats, campsites, caravans, chalets, guest houses, holiday parks, and yurts.

Restaurants only need to gather contact information for customers who are dining in, not for takeaways. Places of worship are not included in these regulations but are still strongly encouraged to gather visitor records and to display an official NHS QR code poster. A full list of establishments affected appears in the government advice.

Using posters and QR codes
Employers in these sectors must also display an official NHS QR poster that so that visitors can scan the code, effectively checking in on their phones, as an alternative to providing their contact details. The information stays on the user’s phone. These posters can be generated online.

Venues should not request details from people who check in with the official NHS QR poster but venues should ask to check the phone screen of those who check in with the code, a to ensure they have successfully checked in. Visitors can choose to provide their contact details if they prefer.

If there is an outbreak connected to that venue, a message will be sent to the customer with isolation or other public health advice.

Keeping the records and displaying the poster does not excuse employers from following all the other guidance about safe working environments and social distancing etc.

Steps to take
To avoid fines the details venues are required to capture are:

  • the name of the customer (or of the lead member of a group)
  • the number of people in the group
  • a contact phone number for each customer (or of the lead member of the group)
  • email address or postal address if no phone number is available
  • date of visit
  • arrival time and departure time
  • the name of the assigned staff member such as the waiter.

Organisations do not have to verify the details given for NHS Test and Trace as the accuracy of the information is the responsibility of the individual who supplies it. The government advice says recording and protecting information electronically is preferable but protections will vary depending on whether it is collected in hard copy or electronically.

Venues should also be aware that:

  • Records must be kept for 21 days. After 21 days the information must be securely disposed of by shredding paper documents or permanent deletion of electronic files.
  • Customer records which are already kept for other business purposes do not need to be disposed of after 21 days. 
  • All collected data must comply with the data protection rules, including explaining why data is being collected and ensuring that it is not kept for longer than is necessary.
  • Notices (displayed at the premises or on the website) must set out that the data will be used for NHS Test and Trace.
  • Security measures to protect customer contact information must be put in place.

Final steps entail co-operating promptly with NHS Test and Trace if required when the premises has been identified as the location of a COVID-19 outbreak. Employers must not share the contact information with anyone other than NHS Test and Trace who will ask employers to sign into the NHS Test and Trace contact-tracing website. Local council website contain information about ensuring contact tracers are genuine for example contact tracers will never ask for any details about bank accounts and would never ask employers to download any software to their computer.

Failure to capture customer details is a breach of the law and will result in fixed penalty fines. Using data gathered for other reasons such as marketing may also lead to penalties and enforcement action from the Information Commissioner.

The first fixed penalty is £1,000, the second is £2,000, the third is £3,000. Any further penalty notice thereafter is £4,000. The owner, proprietor or manager with overall responsibility of the organisation is liable.

Closing premises
NHS Test and Trace will not necessarily tell hospitality or other businesses to close their establishment. NHS Test and Trace will give public health support and advice which may include some testing or self-isolation. Employers have a legal requirement to ensure their employees self-isolate if they have tested positive for coronavirus or have been in close recent contact with someone who has tested positive and received a notification to self-isolate from NHS Test and Trace (see the latest government guidance). Staff members and customers who test positive must self-isolate with the rest of their household and inform NHS Test and Trace of any further recent contacts. Employers should not use the contact information to contact people themselves.

Q: Can employers require employees to download the NHS Test and Trace app?

The test and trace app, NHS COVID-19, is now available in England and Wales. A Protect Scotland app is available in Scotland and a similar app is available in Northern Ireland.

Health secretary Matt Hancock has said the downloading the app is not compulsory. Employers will therefore need to carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of requiring workers to download it. The issues involve a mix of employment law and practical issues and may entail a data protection impact assessment to address privacy risks.

The government advises that the app is a key part of helping to stop the spread of the virus. As vaccination becomes more widespread the advice concerning the app may change but at the very least prompts people to stick to social distancing and hygiene rules. Other points in favour of encouraging employees to download the app include the following:

  • The virus remains in circulation in the general population, and England's Chief Medical Officer has warned that numbers could rise again and future waves remain possible. If an individual tests positive for COVID-19, then the app automatically alerts other individuals with whom that person has had a relevant interaction.
  • The employer or other employees may be contacted by the NHS Test and Trace as a result of wider use of the app although this is not guaranteed.
  • Without widespread use of the app it will not generate meaningful results and help keep users safe.
  • Employers who provide mobile devices can issue a mandate that workers download the app. Especially as the apps become adopted as part of accepted health and safety practices, employers can say that their app policy goes towards discharging their health and safety duties.
  • For employers who have staff working in the workplace app use will contribute to keeping the workplace safe and containing the pandemic.
  • The app is likely to be better than people’s memories and manual contact tracing.
  • The app will help promote self-isolation and there are now fines for people who don’t self-isolate starting at £1,000 and increasing to up to £10,000 for repeat offences and for the most egregious breaches. These fines also apply to employers who prevent staff from self-isolating.


If employees are working from home in accordance with the government’s latest advice then there is no workplace risk. Also, encouraging employees to download the app does not mean that information is then available to the employer or that the employee will actually use it. Other issues resulting from encouraging employees to download the app include:

  • If the workforce includes a variety of contractors then downloading the app may be harder to enforce, although downloading it could be specified in the relevant contractor’s agreements.
  • Employees who download the app, will then be at risk of fines if they don’t self-isolate whereas people who do not have the app can continue to circulate without being fined.
  • Which device would be used for the app; work or private mobiles or both? There is little benefit to installing the app on work mobiles if employees do not carry this device at the weekends or in the evening.
  • What happens in a sector where workers are not permitted to carry their mobiles at work?
  • There are ongoing challenges with the test and trace system so notifications from the app do not mean that access to testing will be straightforward.
  • Some people told to isolate by the app may receive a false report that they have been within two metres of an infectious person for 15 minutes when they have not. However, this is better than no notification at all.
  • The NHS and the government are primarily responsible for safeguarding data but requiring workers to download the app may make the employer theoretically a joint controller for the purposes of data protection law even though no personal data would be available to the employer.
  • The extensive collection of personal data must be processed safely, securely and fairly. Some employees may have concerns about data privacy and the potential for data to be used for other purposes, and be reluctant to download the app anyway. However, the data use is more private than social media apps such as Facebook or Google maps for example.
  • If a worker receives an alert that they are at risk, the employer will need to deal with the requirement to self-isolate with potential disciplinary issues if an app tells an employee to self-isolate and they do not.
  • People with certain devices (for example android and Apple devices earlier than 6S) may not be able to use it.

Employers need to evaluate these factors and may decide to simply to promote the app as part of the organisation's COVID-secure workplace strategy and highlight the benefits without compulsorily requiring the employees to download it. The key consideration for employers is to prioritise the health and safety of their workforce.

Q: What do employers need to know about the test and trace service and should they adjust their risk assessments?

Anyone experiencing symptoms, however mild, should request a test as soon as possible via the NHS website or by calling 119. If an employer knows an employee has not done this, they should advise them to do so.

If an employee receives a positive result they will be asked to log on to the NHS website to provide their details, who they live with, places recently visited, and contact details of their close contacts in the 48 hours before symptoms started. The track and trace service then provides a notification confirming that the individual must self-isolate which can then be shown to employer.

The NHS trained contact tracers will follow up and alert the contacts by email or telephone, informing them to self-isolate. This may affect a number of employees who work together if one colleague has tested positive.

The track and trace service now includes the contact tracing app. More information on the app and incorporating its use into risk assessments can be found in the FAQ above.

Please note, the track and trace service is called NHS Test and Trace in England, 'Test and Protect' in Scotland, or 'Test, trace, protect' in Wales.

Risk assessments

Risk assessments for each workplace should include an assessment of the risk of coronavirus to everyone. Employers’ risk assessments and coronavirus planning should take into account the track and trace system. Where working from home is not possible, employers should try to minimise the risk in accordance with their risk assessment and the Government’s sector-specific guidance.

Employers should have plans in place which can be activated if an employee is potentially infected. This should encompass plans which cover what to do if staff levels cannot be maintained due to a group of employees needing to self-isolate.

Employers should understand how the scheme evolves and keep checking for current government advice and updates. For details of sick leave length, pay and reimbursement for coronavirus-related absences, see our FAQs on periods of self-isolation and on payment of SSP.

Q: Do we pay SSP to employees who have been told by the test and trace service they need to self-isolate?

Employees who are contacted through test and trace and told to self-isolate can work from home and be paid as normal if they are well enough to do so. Those who cannot work from home can be paid SSP from day one of their absence. Employees who are self-isolating need to follow their workplace’s usual sickness reporting process.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

SSP can be paid to a range of employees who need to self-isolate for example because they:

  • have coronavirus
  • have coronavirus symptoms, for example a high temperature, new continuous cough or loss of taste and smell
  • someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms
  • are in the same household someone who has symptoms and then develop symptoms themselves
  • been told to self-isolate by a doctor, NHS 111 or the 'test and trace' service, because they’ve been in close contact with someone who tested positive.
Those who cannot work from home and have been told to 'shield' by the NHS because they were extremely clinically vulnerable were entitled to SSP until the end of March 2021. As of 1 April 2021 they should be able to return to the workplace and SSP will no longer be an automatic entitlement for the clinically extremely vulnerable. SSP will of course continue to be payable if the employee is sick or incapable of work and meets the eligibility criteria.

Contractual Sick Pay

Employers who offer sick pay in excess of SSP will have to check their policies. Most employers’ existing policies will not be drafted to cover the concept of self-isolation, so they can offer SSP instead. However, many employers will treat the time off as sick leave and provide contractual pay in the usual way even though they do not have to.


In the budget on 3 March 2021 the government confirmed that eligible small and medium-sized employers can continue to claim reimbursement of 14 days’ SSP per employee for coronavirus-related absences, including absences due to self-isolation in accordance with test and trace.

The special Coronavirus SSP rebate scheme only applies to small and medium-sized employers i.e. those with under 250 employees as at 28 February 2020.

The reimbursement covers payments for up to two weeks of SSP for employees unable to work because they have coronavirus and are self-isolating and unable to work from home. There is an online portal to make a claim.

The reimbursement scheme is intended as a temporary COVID-19 measure to support employers while levels of sickness absence are high. The government will close this scheme in due course.

Changes to SSP rules

Normal SSP rules have been temporarily amended by three sets of SSP Coronavirus amendment regulations. The usual waiting period of three days before SSP becomes payable do not apply where the absence is due to the pandemic. SSP is therefore paid from the first day of sickness absence, not the fourth day, for staff who have coronavirus or live with some-one who does and have to self-isolate.

Under normal rules, employees can 'self-certify' for the first 7 days off work. The Government guidance is that those with symptoms or who are advised to stay at home can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online, rather than visiting a GP. For coronavirus cases this replaces fit or sick notes normally used after seven days of absence.

Q: Our employee has been contacted by the test and trace service and they need to self-isolate; should we put them on sick leave?

Employers have a legal requirement to ensure their employees self-isolate if they have tested positive for coronavirus or received a notification to self-isolate from NHS Test and Trace (see the latest government guidance). Those contacted by the test and trace system have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for the virus. They should remain in self-isolation for up to 14 days, even if their test is negative. The virus may not be detectable when the test took place. Everyone must continue self-isolation if someone in their home tests positive or has symptoms and has not been tested.

Any employees contacted by the track and trace service can be placed on sick leave. Track and trace does not yet change the current guidance, which is that employers who can arrange for working from home should still do that where possible. The government’s roadmap for easing lockdown in England contains the potential dates for employers in some sectors such as education, retail, care, hospitality and hotels for their return to the workplace, for others remote working continues until May or in June when social distancing rules maybe relaxed. This is currently speculative as the outcome of the review is expected before 21 June and until then the rules including social distancing and facemasks remains in place, including working from home for many.

Q: Do we need to give workers paid time off to go for a test?

Employers should give employees time off to go for a test. Whether employees should be paid for time off to go for a test is not addressed in the guidance. Generally, there is no statutory right to paid time off to attend medical appointments. However sometimes there is a contractual right to time off.

The Government and the NHS are advising people to self-isolate in a number of situations, including waiting for a test result, being in the same household as someone with symptoms, or being contacted by the test and trace service. Therefore, if an employee has reason to believe they have been exposed to the virus the employer should send them home anyway to protect the workplace and comply with their health and safety duties towards other staff and customers.

The sensible approach seems to be to allow the time off and to pay for this time or to trigger the start of SSP if possible. SSP will be available for self-isolation days waiting for a test result.

Q: Our employee says he has been told for the third time to self-isolate under test and trace; should we ask for proof? Should we ask him to take the time as annual leave?

Some employees may be told to self-isolate multiple times under track and trace. Three consecutive requests is likely to be relatively unusual, however, precautionary self-isolation may happen more than once. Some workplaces, local areas, families or friendship groups may have individuals who are infected and in localised outbreaks, employees are more likely to have been exposed to someone who is infected.

The test and trace service notification confirming someone must self-isolate, can be shown to employers. In the vast majority of cases employers can accept employees' confirmation of having been advised to self-isolate or the test and trace notification. If the employer has reason to mistrust the employee then the employer could ask for further evidence – for instance, screenshots from the tracing app notification.

A payment of £500 may be available to some who have been told to self-isolate by test and trace - see the question below Q: In the case of a test and trace notification or a workplace outbreak is there any support available?

An employee on one or more self-isolations can take annual leave rather than SSP if they wish. The government have confirmed this. Although the employer can offer this as an option the employee should freely choose to do this. Employers may also offer to pay salary as normal or find tasks for the employee to do at home provided the employee has no symptoms.

Q: We have casual staff and those on zero hours contracts who have been told to self-isolate by the test and trace service; what should we do about pay?

High numbers of workers operate on a zero hours or casual basis. Depending on their precise employment status some of those workers who have been told to self-isolate will be eligible for SSP, but others will not.

A payment of £500 may be available to some who have been told to self-isolate by test and trace - see the question below Q: In the case of a test and trace notification or a workplace outbreak is there any support available?

If SSP is payable because of coronavirus up to two weeks can be reclaimed by employers, including sums paid to eligible casual and zero hours workers; see the FAQ on pay above for further detail.

Qualification for SSP for casual and zero-hours contract workers can be complex. SSP is not available for those who are self-employed. SSP is only available for those who are paid under the PAYE system and who pay Class 1 National insurance. To be eligible for SSP average weekly earnings must be at least £120 per week. This figure is based on what is known as the Lower Earnings Limit.

Casual and zero-hours contract workers who often have more than one job cannot combine earnings to meet this threshold. So those who earn less than £120 per week are not entitled to SSP. Zero hours contract workers who earn too little or who have just started a new casual engagement will probably not be entitled to SSP but may be entitled to welfare benefits.

Eligible employees and workers must receive any SSP due to them from their first day of self-isolation. This can arise in several situations including having coronavirus symptoms or being told to isolate because someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms. See the FAQ on SSP above for more information.

SSP can only be paid for the days when the casual or zero-hours contracts is required to perform work. Employers can simply agree that other days will count as qualifying days, provided there is at least one qualifying day in every week.

Q: Can we keep records about which employees have been asked to self-isolate or take a test?

The Department of Health and Social Care strongly advises employees to inform the employer as soon as they test positive for coronavirus. This is because employers must urgently manage any impact on the workplace which may include asking other employees to be tested if they have been in close contact with the infected person.

Employers can keep records about which employees have been asked to self-isolate or take a test. Data protection law allows employers to take the necessary steps to keep staff and the public safe especially during a pandemic.

If an employee contracted coronavirus at the workplace employers must report this to the Health and Safety Executive, as required by the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (Riddor).

You can also refer to the FAQ on data protection below and our Protecting your workforce Q:  What systems do we need to put in place for handling data from testing?

Q: Do data protection laws prevent employers processing data about employees who are potentially or actually infected?

Data protection laws do not prevent employers processing data about employees who are potentially or actually infected. Data protection law enables employers to take steps to keep staff and public safe during the pandemic. All employers must do is be responsible with people’s personal data and handle it carefully for legitimate reasons.

Personal data about coronavirus testing health is classed as sensitive, special category data so it must be handled fairly, transparently and lawfully. Employers must simply ensure their record keeping under the GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018 does not involve collecting or share unnecessary data.

Employers must have a lawful basis for their processing of test results. In most circumstances this will be public task or legitimate interests for public sector and private sector employers. Where employers will need to process data about someone with suspected coronavirus, there is also a condition that allows them to comply with health and safety obligations.

The health data of a potentially infected employee should be kept to a minimum. This means not collecting unnecessary information that is not needed, for example about underlying conditions any employee may have. The data should also be handled securely remembering employee’s confidentiality. The minimum amount of data is probably:

  • if an employee tested positive and when
  • lists of other employees who tested positive and when.

Any lists must not lead to detrimental treatment of employees affected. One way of demonstrating that processing of test data is compliant is through a data protection impact assessment looking at activity proposed and risk. Basically, employers need to show that the proposed processing of coronavirus related data is necessary and proportionate to protect other’s health, with mitigation steps to counter any risks.


Employers should be clear and open with employees about why personal health data about coronavirus tests and symptoms is needed and how long it will be kept for. Staff should know who the data will be shared with and be able to discuss any concerns. To ensure staff are able to exercise their right of access, completely secure portals that allow staff to manage and update their own personal data may be appropriate.

Privacy policies and information may need amending as well. For further information see our Protecting your workforce Q: What systems do we need to put in place for handling data from testing?

Q: What potential problems may employers face with the test and trace system?

The test and trace system depends on people being honest that they have received self-isolation advice. The minimum requirement for pay during self-isolation is Statutory Sick Pay. Some employees who are busy at work or who only receive SSP may have a financial disincentive to self-isolate even when contacted and asked to do so.

Other potential problems include:

  • There is a risk that some employers may be unable to operate safely if too many staff have to self-isolate at the same time, due to an infected colleague. This will affect employers who cannot operate with staff working from home.
  • Employees who are contacted several times in succession by the track and trace system will be reluctant to take repeated periods of 14-day self-isolation on reduced pay. See the FAQ on employees being asked to self-isolate multiple times under track and trace above for more information.
  • Testing is currently limited to those with symptoms. Employees required to self-isolate for 14 days, possibly repeatedly, cannot be tested if they are not displaying symptoms in order to return to work more promptly. Employers may consider paying for private testing, although employers should be cautious about this approach as it is not known whether all these services are reliable, and employees’ consent would be required.
  • Other potential abuses include false information or troublemakers attempting to manipulate the scheme. Hopefully there will be few such cases, but an employee might maliciously name someone as having been a close contact to force them to self-isolate. Others might attempt to abuse the scheme to get more time off.

Q: What happens if a large number of my employees are contacted by the test and trace service?

If one employee is contacted it’s likely that more employees will also be contacted (although as vaccination is rolled out then outbreaks should be more limited). 

Employers have a legal requirement to ensure their employees self-isolate if they have tested positive for coronavirus or have been in close recent contact with someone who has tested positive and received a notification to self-isolate from NHS Test and Trace (see the latest government guidance). The NHS test and trace service does not change the existing guidance about working from home so this should be followed as a first measure for all employees where possible until at least May or June 2021. Employers’ duties to protect the health and safety of staff and others (including agency workers, contractors, volunteers, customers, suppliers and other visitors) remains paramount.

Plans, policies and assessments

Employers need a contingency action plan or policy in place now in case an employee receives a test and trace request to self-isolate. Employers may also wish to update absence, sickness and disciplinary policies and create temporary cover plans if critical employees are affected. Any plans should align with the advice outlined on the Government website.

If a large number of employees are contacted by test and trace, employers may need to adapt to a sudden staff decrease at very short notice. Some workplaces will be able to go back to remote working, at least for the employees contacted by the service. Employees who can work from home can start doing so immediately (assuming they are not showing any symptoms and should be on sick leave).

Employers should plan and communicate the actions employees should take in two stages; before and after a positive test result and contact from test and trace.

Before contact from the test and trace service

When someone first develops symptoms and orders a test, they are encouraged to alert the people that they have had close contact with in the past 48 hours. An employee should (but is not obliged to) ask the employer to alert the co-workers.

Employees should instruct employers to let them know immediately if they have been contacted by the service, show symptoms, are awaiting a test result or have tested positive. Failure to tell the employer could be misconduct and included as a disciplinary offence as it puts others at risk.

Before contact from the test and trace service the co-workers and other close contacts of that employee do not officially have to self-isolate yet. Employers may decide to send co-workers home as a precaution. At the very least co-workers should:

  • avoid individuals who are highly clinically vulnerable, for example because they have pre-existing medical conditions, such as respiratory issues
  • take extra care in social distancing and hygiene and in watching out for symptoms
  • wait to see if the person who has symptoms has a positive test result and if that person gets notification from the NHS test and trace service explaining they need to self-isolate.

Workers who have symptoms of coronavirus or live with someone with symptoms can get an isolation note through NHS111 online.

After test and trace contact

If the person with symptoms has a positive test result, the test and trace service will ask for information about their close recent contacts and send the formal notification to contacts who need to self-isolate.

If an employee receives a positive test result it is likely that their colleagues will be contacted by the test and trace service and so employers should plan for the following:

  • As soon as possible employees should share the formal notification provided by test and trace to show that they have been told to self-isolate and explain to their employer that this means that they cannot come to work.
  • Employees who are not already working at home should comply immediately with any request from the test and trace service to self-isolate, and they should not finish their normal working day or shift. The period of self-isolation will be for 14 days from the point of most recent contact with the person who has tested positive for coronavirus.
  • Employees should work from home, if they can, and be paid as usual. There may be some special projects that can be completed at home if their normal work is unavailable.
  • If the isolating person cannot work from home, employers should outline if the employers’ company sick pay scheme covers the absence, or that SSP is in place. Employers can offer paid holiday if the employee prefers.
  • Any reluctant employees who insist they are not a risk and try to attend the workplace and work in contravention of a test and trace notice could be disciplined for misconduct.
  • Employees in self-isolation via test and trace are entitled to SSP for the 14 day isolation period regardless of symptoms. There is also a special test and trace payment available for certain lower paid staff. Employers can use the formal test and trace notification supplied to them by the employee to claim the employers’ SSP coronavirus rebate. Employers with fewer than 250 employees on 28 February 2020, and who pay out SSP due to absences related to the virus can recover up to 14 days SSP per employee.
  • Employees should update their employer if they develop symptoms and the usual rules and processes around sick leave and SSP apply (more information on coronavirus statutory sick pay can be found in the FAQs on managing employees who are self-isolating or who have symptoms).

Employers should maintain contact with workers in self-isolation and provide them with support including working from home if possible.

The Government has asked employers to encourage employees to follow any request to self-isolate and obey the guidelines and has issued guidance for employers on how they can support the test and trace scheme. There are 5 steps to working safely, safer workplaces guidance along with sector-specific guidance and further NHS Test and Trace Workplace Guidance (UK) (with specific advice for Scotland).

Q: In the case of a test and trace notification or workplace outbreak is there any support available?

Test and trace payment
Some people will be eligible for a eligible for a test and trace support payment of £500. This applies to those instructed to stay at home and self-isolate by NHS test and trace or the NHS COVID-19 app, because they have recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive or have tested positive for COVID-19 themselves. The payment applies to the employed or self-employed who are unable to work from home who lose income as a result of self-isolating as long as they or their partner in the same household get one of the following:

  • Universal Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Income-based Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit
  • Pension Credit.
The person must comply with the requirements of NHS Test and Trace and will get the payment in addition to any benefits and SSP received currently. 

Discretionary payment: For people not on one of the above benefits a £500 discretionary payment may apply to others who are on a low income and will face financial hardship as a result of being told to self-isolate. The local council will determine eligibility based on low income and financial hardship.

Parents: The £500 payments apply to parents or guardians of a child who has been told to self-isolate, as well as those who have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace themselves. The parent or guardian must need to take time off work and be unable to work from home; they must also lose income because of having to care for the child in their household while they are self-isolating. All the other eligibility criteria for a Test and Trace Support Payment or discretionary payment must be met.
The child must be 15 or under, or aged 25 or under with an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan. The child must have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or by their education or childcare setting. The child’s NHS Test and Trace Account ID or a communication from the school telling the child to self-isolate will be needed.
Tax: Payments made under the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme are subject to income tax but not National Insurance contributions. HMRC will automatically recover the tax from the  pay of employed people with a change to the  tax code.
Local authority applications
People can apply under the test and trace payment scheme up to 42 days after the first day of the self-isolation period to the local authority or district council. An NHS Test and Trace Account ID is needed, given following a positive test for COVID-19, or being told to self-isolate by contact tracers. Other proof includes evidence of a qualifying benefit, a bank statement and proof of employment. Self-employed people will need self-assessment returns, evidence of trading income and  proof that their services cannot be undertaken without social contact. Self-employed people  should report the payment on their 2020 to 2021 Self Assessment tax return.

Local outbreaks

If numerous cases of coronavirus appear in a workplace and there is a serious risk of a local outbreak, employers are also advised to initially contact their local authority. An outbreak control team may be assigned to help some employers manage a large outbreak if necessary. The local public health experts, who will liaise as necessary with the employers, will also get involved if outbreaks occur in health or care settings including hospitals or care homes, prisons, special needs schools and any other setting where there is a risk of a local outbreak.

Some workers may be self-isolating because they are a member of the same household as someone who has symptoms or has tested positive for coronavirus and so the workplace will not necessarily be the source and may not have widespread infection. Workers who think workplace contacts have triggered successive test and trace notifications are advised by the Government to ask their employer what further mitigating actions could be taken to reduce the risk such as using screens, or putting staff in cohorts to reduce the number of people each person has contact with.

More information is available on the Government website.

DISCLAIMER: The materials provided here are for general information purposes and do not constitute legal or other professional advice. While the information is considered to be true and correct at the date of publication, changes in circumstances may impact the accuracy and validity of the information. The CIPD is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for any action or decision taken as a result of using the guidance. You should consult the government website for the very latest information or contact a professional adviser for legal or other advice where appropriate.

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