In light of the Government’s workplace testing scheme, over 48,000 employers have registered their interest for free rapid lateral tests which will see employees tested twice a week. 

According to the Department of Health and Social Care, almost 50,000 employers are interested in providing staff with regular, rapid testing in light of COVID-19.

This, the DHSC has stated, is a “crucial tool” in preventing outbreaks in the workplace as the Prime Minister’s roadmap comes into full effect and restrictions are gradually lifted.

Within this scheme, employers would be provided with rapid lateral test kits which can provide results in up to 30 minutes. In addition, employees would be tested twice a week to constantly ensure the workplace continues to operate as safely as possible.

This fast and frequent mode of testing is important, the Government says, as around a third of people who have COVID-19 do not show symptoms. This leaves them susceptible to unknowingly spreading the virus.

Businesses partaking in this scheme could see more people who test positive isolating more quickly, thereby breaking the chain of transmission.

Organisations have until 31 March to register for the government’s workplace testing scheme, which will remain free until the end of June. Businesses of any size, including those with fewer than 50 employees, are eligible for this scheme.

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said:

We have built a huge asymptomatic testing system from scratch, which is an essential part of our plan to reopen cautiously.

Rapid testing has been rolled out at a vast scale across a range of sectors, and it is fantastic that now over 48,000 businesses have signed up to offer rapid testing to employees. This is a huge step forward in getting businesses back on their feet and helping to keep people safe.

However, previously, unions such as the GMB flagged the potential risks to relying solely on lateral tests, declaring the need for further precautions in the workplace.

Dan Shears, GMB union’s health, safety and environment director, said:

Everyone wants to ensure that infectious workers keep away from the workplace, but this means getting the introduction of testing right – with confirmatory testing to avoid false negatives and crucially ensuring that all protective measures to reduce transmission are implemented to the maximum.

This warning comes after previous research suggested that some employers were breaching COVID-19 safety guidelines in the workplace.

Between the 6th and 14th January alone, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) received 2,945 complaints regarding safety issues at work linked to COVID-19.

The Government has pledged a review of safety measures in the workplace over the following months. A spokesperson stated:

We recognise that social distancing is difficult for many businesses, which is why the guidance on working from home will be reviewed ahead of Step 4 of our roadmap.

We will give businesses the certainty they need to prepare for any changes ahead of them coming into force and thank them for all their efforts throughout the pandemic to keep staff safe.