Self-Isolation: What’s Changing?

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We’re all operating against a constantly shifting backdrop, so we thought it would be helpful to outline the changes to self-isolation rules effective from today, Monday 16th August. We hope this will provide clarity on the modified requirements and aid employee communications.

The British Retail Consortium has received guidance directly from Mark Harrop who works for the Department of Health and Social Care on NHS Test and Trace External Affairs. The below content was put together by the BRC following a meeting with DHSC. As well as the guidance provided, there is a wider employer Q&A at the end.

Scenario: An individual has been pinged or contact traced as having come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19

From 16th August – Fully vaccinated people

  • Those who are under 18 years and 6 months or fully vaccinated will no longer have to self-isolate
    • We define fully vaccinated as having had both doses plus 2 weeks
  • The person no longer has a legal duty to self-isolate and therefore will not have to inform their employer – but they may wish to do so
    • The employer does not need to verify vaccine status or store this health data – see Q&A below
  • NHS Test & Trace will still contact the individual to make them aware and will verify their vaccine status
  • They will be strongly recommended to take a PCR test, but not required to do so

From 16th August – unvaccinated, one dose or second dose within two weeks people

  • Will have to self-isolate for the required time
  • This is still a legal duty and the same as currently stands before August 16th

Summary: The House Rules

  • If you develop symptoms, you must self-isolate and take a PCR test
  • If you are contact traced and not fully vaccinated, you must legally self-isolate
  • If you are instructed to self-isolate, you must inform your employer
  • If you are double vaccinated, none of the above apply but you should continue to take caution, social distance, use of facemasks and follow government guidelines

Business Q&A

We know businesses have had a number of questions about the implementation of the new self-isolation rules. We hope the scenarios set out above are helpful in explaining changes to your workforce. However, we have additional Q&A below:

Can my employer require proof of my vaccination status?

Your COVID status is special category data, as it is your private health information. Your employer’s reason for checking or recording your COVID status must be clear, necessary and transparent. If they cannot specify a use for this information and are recording it on a ‘just in case’ basis, or if they can achieve their goal without collecting this data, they are unlikely to be able to justify asking for it.

As an employer, do I have to check my workers’ vaccination status?

No, they must let you know if they are legally required to self-isolate. They can be fined if they fail to do this.  If they are exempt from self-isolation as a contact because they are fully vaccinated, then no action is needed.  Employers are not expected to check their workers’ vaccination status.  However, if a worker informs you that they are under a legal duty to self-isolate, then you must not ask them to come into work.

How do I know if someone I employ is exempt from self-isolation if I can’t check their vaccination status?

It is up to workers to inform their employers if they are under a legal duty to self-isolate.  If they fail to do so – including falsely claiming they are not required to self-isolate – then they can be fined. They may also be subject to your usual disciplinary processes.

If I am exempt from self-isolation, can I still choose to do so?  

Individuals who are fully vaccinated can still choose to self-isolate if they have close contact with a positive case.  However, you will not necessarily be eligible for financial (such as statutory sick pay) or practical support while self-isolating.  If you are employed, then depending on the specific circumstances, your employer may require you to continue to come into work if you are exempt from self-isolation.

Can my employer force me to come into work if I am exempt from self-isolation?

If you are not legally required to self-isolate, then your employer may require you to continue to come into work, depending on specific circumstances.

If someone has been vaccinated and receives a notification from the app to self-isolate, what should they do?

From 16th August those who are fully vaccinated or under 18 years of age and identified as a contact will not need to self-isolate; including if they have received a notification from the app.  Instead, they will be advised to get tested. The app is being updated to reflect this and signpost people to testing.  For users who have not been fully vaccinated yet, we recommend they continue to follow the app’s advice to self-isolate, as they are at risk of having and spreading the virus.

As we move away from legal restrictions to taking more personal responsibility the app is perfectly placed to help its users make informed decisions.

We encourage people to keep using the NHS COVID-19 app after they’ve had the vaccine.