Many businesses are reporting issues with staff receiving unnecessary self-isolation notifications due to the Test and Trace app technology not taking into account staff members' surroundings/work environment.
Below we have summarised the legal isolation requirements relating to self-isolation notifications.
This information is correct at time of sending and is to be used as guidance only.
How does the NHS COVID-19 app work?
The app is downloaded voluntarily by the user; the same app is being used by your staff members and your customers.
Using a Bluetooth connection, the app anonymously tracks contacts, and if a user reports a positive test result, the app will notify all other app users who have been recorded as having been in close contact with this person.
This is where the issues have been arising, as staff in protected or back of house areas are being notified unnecessarily.
Different types of self-isolation notifications
There is a legal difference between the self-isolation notification via the app (advisory) and the non-app, direct contact from the NHS Track and Trace system (compulsory).
If someone is contacted directly via the NHS (by text, email or telephone), this is because they have been identified as having had close contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. It is a legal requirement for this person to self-isolate for 10 days.
If someone is contacted via an app notification, while the government advises that everyone follows the self-isolation recommendations, this is advisory only and is not currently legally enforceable.
There is no legal requirement for staff to check-in using the app when at work. Their attendance must however be recorded on a rota record or similar.
Pausing the app
We highly recommend that your staff turn off contact tracing if/when they are working in protected/back of house environments. Below is the guidance from the NHS:
Can I ask a staff member to prove that they must self-isolate?
Employers can request an isolation note from any employee who is self-isolating. Proof can be obtained for someone who has received a positive test result or someone who has come into close contact with a positive case.
This can be completed via the NHS using this link: https://111.nhs.uk/isolation-note/
Can the self-isolation period be reduced?
If contacted by the NHS directly (not the app), you are legally required to self-isolate for 10 days. This cannot currently be reduced or ended early with proof of a negative test result. However, the Government is currently piloting a ‘Test to Release’ daily testing system in place of self-isolation in all circumstances.
A notification from the app does not automatically mean full 10 days isolation. It’s 10 days from the identified date of contact, and the app has a countdown clock (so it’s more likely to be 3-6 days).
Visit the Government Website for more information.