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Self-isolation rules changed for those fully vaccinated

View profile for Rianna Billington
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Self-isolation rules changed for those fully vaccinated

On 16 August 2021, the rules on self-isolation for fully vaccinated individuals changed.

This means, if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus and you have been fully vaccinated (or are aged under 18 years and 6 months), you will not have to self-isolate.

This change is likely to be warmly welcomed by employers, many having suffered at the hands of the “pingdemic” caused by the NHS COVID-19 App and resulting in staff shortages and disruption.

The new rules

From 16 August 2021:

  • If an employee is contacted by NHS Test & Trace and it is identified that they are exempt (due to vaccination status), they will not need to self-isolate. Also, they do not need to notify you that they have been contacted
  • If an employee makes you aware that they have been contacted by NHS Test & Trace and it is identified that they are exempt (due to vaccination status), you can ask them to come into the workplace.

Employees not double vaccinated must continue to self-isolate if they have been identified as a close contact by test and trace.

Employers should remain mindful that although it is no longer a legal obligation for double-vaccinated employees to self-isolate, if they have been identified as a contact, there is a chance that they may go on to develop symptoms. Reviewing and maintaining or adapting appropriate COVID measures will be key to controlling the spread of infection and minimise the risk of concerns from other staff. 

Part of this may include encouraging employees who have been identified as a close contact to take a PCR test, as is advised by the Government. Note, they are not legally required to do so, as well as regular lateral flow tests.

Similarly, if an employee has been “pinged” by the COVID-19 App and they have been double-vaccinated, they are no longer advised to self-isolate. For those employees who are not double-vaccinated, the guidance remains that it is advisable that they do self-isolate, but it is not, and has never been, a legal requirement to do so.

The guidance has not changed for employees who test positive for coronavirus, even where they are double-vaccinated. In these circumstances, they must self-isolate for ten days from the date their symptoms started or when they tested positive, whichever is earliest.

Resolving disputes

There may be some employees who are genuinely and reasonably concerned about returning to work, despite being double-vaccinated, having come into contact with someone who has tested positive. Arguably, due to the new rules, failure to return to work if an employee is exempt could amount to failure to follow a reasonable management instruction. In the first instance, employers should discuss the employee’s concerns and try to achieve an amicable solution, before considering disciplinary action.

Data protection  

Employers may be concerned about how much information they can collect regarding an employee’s vaccination status, and the new rules bring this to the forefront. Health data (such as vaccination records) is special category data and subject to more stringent processing rules.

The ICO advises: there must be a clear and necessary reason for recording an employee’s vaccination status and it should not be recorded on a “just in case basis”. If there is a specific use for the information (arguably, such as determining self-isolation requirements), there may be a lawful basis that employers can rely on in order to process the data. 

If you are processing your employee’s data in this way, you should ensure that you are doing so in accordance with other data protection principles. If you are unsure, you should obtain legal advice and we would be very happy to help.

 

We understand that this is a very difficult time for employers and employees alike, with constantly changing legislation and guidance. If you would like further information in relation to your own workforce, or you are an employee and have concerns about your employer’s approach, or have any other employment related query. We have a dedicated team who would be very happy to assist.

 If you need any more information on this topic please contact Rianna Billington via Rianna.Billington@birkettlong.co.uk or 01245 453812.

 

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