FAQs on COVID-19 Testing and Vaccinations for London’s Businesses and Employers as at 22 January 2021

Please find below some frequently asked questions we complied for businesses and employers. Please note that these questions and answers are being reviewed and updated regularly.

If you don’t find an answer to your question then you can submit it for us to review. We will endeavour to answer those questions not already covered. Please submit questions via this form.

You may also find what you need to know to control the spread of the coronavirus useful.

Testing

Our staff cannot work from home, how can they access testing?

For employees who can’t work from home, free and regular testing for coronavirus is available in their local borough, even if they are not displaying symptoms (a fever, a new continuous cough or a loss of smell and/or taste). If their local Borough does not have tests available, they may be able to access a test through the Borough they work in.

Local ‘rapid tests’ provide results within 40 minutes and are available for anyone who still needs to go out for work – key workers, carers, tradespeople and essential retail workers.

Rapid testing arrangements, including site locations and opening times, are being promoted locally by individual local councils.

Anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 (a fever, a new continuous cough or a loss of smell and/or taste) should request an NHS test online or call 199.

Remember: Coronavirus levels in London are very high and the chance of employees being exposed and infected are higher than ever. During lockdown your staff should work from home unless they are key workers, or it is unreasonable for them to do their job without leaving the house.

Can we test all our employees in order to allow them to work safely?

Some businesses have chosen to privately purchase COVID-19 tests for employees who are not able to work from home.

If you chose to implement testing for your employees it is important that you are clear about the implications of a positive and a negative test result, including what actions need to be taken for each result and the support that you will need to provide staff who are tested.

In particular, staff who receive a negative test result but subsequently develop symptoms must self-isolate immediately and order an NHS test online or by calling 119, even if their negative test was very recent.

Guidance on implementing a testing programme within your business is available here.

We would like to help roll out rapid testing, how can we do this?

Asymptomatic testing is being delivered locally and is the responsibility of local Directors of Public Health.  Offers of support to roll out testing should be discussed with local public health leaders who can be contacted through the relevant local council.

Our staff cannot work from home.  How can they to travel to work safely?

TfL continue to provide a good service on the network.

You can help to ensure the safety of your workforce, and others travelling, by staggering shifts and/or changing operating hours to help employees avoid travelling during the busiest times of 06:00 to 08:00 and 16:00 to 17:30. 

If possible, you can also allocate shifts that start and finish around peak travel times to workers who can walk or cycle to and from work.

TfL’s Quiet Times webpage is a useful tool for employees that gives quiet times for each station.

Vaccinations

Our staff cannot work from home. Can they receive the COVID-19 vaccine?

Your staff can receive a COVID-19 vaccination if they are eligible according to the vaccine priority list.

The priority list sets out the order in which people will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine and is based on the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). This committee is made up of an independent group of experts that advises the government health departments on immunisations. When deciding on the order of vaccination they consider safety, how effective the vaccine will be, and the impact of vaccination strategies. They have set out the list of high priority groups for the COVID-19 vaccine:

  • Residents in care homes for older adults and their carers
  • People aged 80 and over, and frontline health and social care workers
  • People aged 75 and over
  • People aged 70 and over and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable
  • People aged 65 and over with underlying health conditions
  • People over 60
  • People over 55
  • People over 50

The full advice from JCVI on prioritisation is available here.

Staff will be contacted directly by the NHS when it is their turn and should not turn up to a vaccination centre without an appointment.

Your employees will need to be registered at a local GP surgery in England to be invited to have the COVID-19 vaccine.  They should register with a GP if they do not already have one and make sure their GP practice has the most up to date contact information.

Remember: The COVID-19 vaccine will always be available free of charge.  The NHS will never ask people to share bank details to confirm their identity or ask them to pay for the vaccine.

As a business we have resources and/or expertise which we think would be beneficial to those planning and delivering vaccinations, how can we offer this?

Vaccine delivery is being co-ordinated by the NHS.

Offers from businesses to support the roll out of vaccination, including resources, expertise in planning or delivery of events and services or venues to conduct vaccination can be made through the Vaccine Programme Board.  If you wish to make such an offer, please email: covid.inkind@london.gov.uk

What can businesses do to support the roll out of COVID-19 vaccinations?

Employers can help by building trust in the COVID-19 vaccine, providing factual information and encourage and support employees to respond to vaccine invitations and attend vaccine appointments.

It is vital that people have good information about the vaccine and businesses can help by:

  • Sharing information from trusted sources such as the NHS.
  • Ensuring employees understand the prioritisation system for the vaccine and know when it is their turn to be called for vaccination.
  • Reminding staff to check that their GP has up to date contact details for them and if they are not registered with a GP encourage them to do so.
  • Warning staff about fraud and scams related to the vaccine. It is important to remember that the COVID-19 vaccine will always be available free of charge.  The NHS will never ask for people to share bank details to confirm their identity or ask them to pay for the vaccine.  No one needs to apply for the vaccine.
  • Providing employees with the necessary time off to receive their own vaccinations or to help anyone that they care for or support to receive their vaccination. There are some common side effects of the vaccine and employers and businesses should allow time off if needed employees need to manage these side effects.
  • The vaccine roll out has provided a number of opportunities for people to volunteer their time. Businesses can support the vaccine roll out by promoting and supporting employees to take up these opportunities.  More information on volunteering opportunities is available here.

While the vaccine is an essential part of preventing serious illness and deaths from COVID-19, we do not yet know if it will stop people catching or passing on the virus. Therefore, there is a chance people might still get or spread coronavirus even if they have had the vaccine. This means businesses should continue to promote public health guidance and rules to employees and consider ways of making workplaces safer. More information on the coronavirus rules in London.

Staff should also be reminded to always:

  • Keep a safe distance from others.  Stay two metres apart from people they do not live with as much as possible.
  • Wear a face covering wherever it is not possible keep a safe distance from others, this includes at any busy outdoor public places. It is mandatory to wear a face covering on public transport and in shops.
  • Wash hands frequently and carry hand sanitiser when out.
  • Keep indoor spaces well ventilated. If staff must have people in their homes, such as those doing maintenance, open windows and doors when you can to allow fresh air to circulate.
  • Anyone who develops COVID-19 symptoms (high temperature, continuous cough, loss or change of taste or smell) should self-isolate immediately and request a test as soon as possible

Information on keeping workplaces safe is available here.

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