Launched on 27 May 2020, NHS Test and Trace was created to pinpoint positive cases of COVID-19, identify their close circle of contacts and prevent the illness being passed to others. The initiative aims to ‘break the chain of transmission’ – but it can also trigger costly breaks in productivity if employees are asked to self-isolate. 

So how do you maintain business continuity while caring for your team and the wider community? Our COVID-19 compliance experts provide top Test and Trace advice for businesses. 

What does Test and Trace do? 

First, let’s get back to basics with a reminder of the government’s four main objectives for the Test and Trace programme: 

  • Use testing to find people who have COVID-19 and ensure both they and their recent contacts self-isolate to avoid passing the virus on to other people
  • Manage outbreaks in local communities and reduce the risk of local outbreaks
  • Help individuals, businesses and public services to better understand and manage risks of COVID-19 transmission
  • Build a trusted service with and for the citizens who use it

How does Test and Trace work? 

The Test and Trace process begins when a person develops COVID-19 symptoms. At this point, they should immediately self-isolate at home for at least 10 days. Household members should also isolate at home for 14 days.  

The person with symptoms should then arrange a test, either through the NHS website or by calling 119 (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or 0300 303 2713 in Scotland. If they test positive for COVID-19, they’ll be asked to continue self-isolating for 10 days. 

In England and Northern Ireland You need to get the test done in the first 8 days of having symptoms.

On days 1 to 7, you can get tested at a site or at home. If you’re ordering a home test kit on day 7, do it by 3pm. On day 8, you need to go to a test site – it’s too late to order a home test kit

In Scotland and Wales you need to get the test done in the first 5 days of having symptoms. On days 1 to 4, you can get tested at a site or at home. If you’re ordering a home test kit on day 4, do it by 3pm. On day 5, you need to go to a test site – it’s too late to order a home test kit.

The individual will also receive a text, email or phone call from NHS Test and Trace to request details about their household, close contacts and places they visited in the 48 hours before they became unwell. Test and Trace then informs those people of possible exposure and instructs them to stay home for 14 days, even if they don’t have symptoms. 

What does Test and Trace mean for businesses? 

The demands of Test and Trace have forced many companies to strike a precarious balance between team safety and business survival. If staff are classed as close contacts and directed to self-isolate, owners risk losing substantial numbers of their workforce. Without enough employees to safely run operations, temporary or permanent site closures become very real prospects. 

But a disciplined approach to social distancing and staff training can make all the difference. 

Implement best practice COVID-19 controls 

Carry out a coronavirus risk assessment to locate transmission hazards across your site, then follow up regularly to ensure control measures are properly implemented and monitored. Educate staff on the importance of social distancing – and the specific measures you’ve put in place (such as segregated workstations, Perspex screens and one-way systems) to protect customers and colleagues. Get started with Southalls’ free, downloadable resources including printable posters and a business guide to social distancing. 

Train staff on the definition of ‘close contact’ 

To drive home the importance of social distancing, make sure employees understand exactly what ‘close contact’ means. According to the NHS, examples include: 

  • Having close face-to-face contact (under 1 metre) with a person for any length of time – including talking to them or coughing on them
  • Being within 1 to 2 metres of each other for more than 15 minutes – including travelling in a small vehicle or close to them on a plane

These definitions are vital if a team member receives a positive test result. During contact with the Test and Trace service, the employee should only identify staff who fit the above criteria. This will avoid other workers being unnecessarily instructed to self-isolate. 

Access expert help – for free 

A COVID-19 outbreak within your workforce can cause long-term health issues for employees and lasting reputational damage for your business, so arm yourself with the most current health and safety strategies. Our complimentary COVID-19 compliance check identifies weak links in your coronavirus safety programme, provides practical recommendations and ensures you’re operating in line with changing regulations for your sector. Speak to your Southalls consultant for immediate support or get in touch with the team on 0345 257 4015 or