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07 Jun 2021


COVID-19 workplace testing: what you need to know

As coronavirus testing options increase and returns to the workplace begin to look more realistic, it's a good idea to know what your options are regarding workplace testing.

Who is testing for?

At the time of writing, working from home is still the default advice. But the UK government wants as many employers as possible to introduce a workplace testing programme for staff who can't work from home. This drive is mainly aimed at employers with 50 staff or more, but there are also options for smaller businesses.

Workplace testing isn't for those with coronavirus symptoms (they should get a PCR test themselves through the NHS). Instead, the purpose is to catch asymptomatic staff, i.e. those who have COVID-19 but not symptoms – about 1 in 3 with coronavirus don't have symptoms, but can still pass it on.

Therefore, workplace testing focuses on 'lateral flow' tests. These detect antigens (proteins) produced by the virus and give results in 30 minutes.

Arranging tests

It's up to you to decide if you want to implement testing, but the UK government recommends that larger employers (50+ employees) offer their on-site staff access to at least 2 lateral flow tests every week. You can choose to:

  • buy your own tests and set up your own workplace testing;
  • pay an approved provider to provide tests or run a test site for you; or
  • if there are problems setting these up, buy tests for staff to test themselves.

If you employ fewer than 50, you're free to do the same. However, UK government guidance suggests you can instead ask on-site staff to order their own free tests via GOV.UK, or to get a test at a local testing site. Again, they should do this twice a week.

Voluntary testing

Ideally you should introduce testing on a voluntary basis, with a clear workplace testing policy and communication plan. Consult staff about your plans - explain why you're asking them to be tested and the benefits of doing so. Listen to what they say.

You should also consider the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) guidance on workplace testing.

Can you make testing mandatory?

There's currently no legal obligation for workplace testing. So, you might find it difficult to justify a blanket requirement that all staff must be tested. But, if it's something you want to consider, there are 2 possible ways of going about it.

First, employees have a duty under the general law to obey the lawful and reasonable orders of their employers. So, you could possibly argue that taking a workplace test is a lawful and reasonable instruction. But what's 'reasonable' will be different for every workforce and workplace. It'll likely depend on the risk and implications of COVID-19 for your particular setting. For example, mandatory testing may be reasonable if you can't put in place other COVID-secure measures. Get legal advice if you think requiring testing may be justified as it'll depend hugely on your circumstances.

Second, you could change an employee's contract to add a testing requirement. However, this is potentially problematic. You'll need their agreement – if you make the change without it, you'll break the contract and its original terms will remain in place. This could lead to claims of breach of contract, unfair dismissal or constructive dismissal.

Again, get legal advice before trying to make testing a part of staff contracts.

In summary, if you want to impose a mandatory testing requirement, you must first:

  • undertake a detailed risk assessment to show why COVID-19 testing is required on top of the stringent COVID-secure guidelines already in place;
  • consult with workplace representatives or trade unions where applicable; and
  • get legal advice.

What can you do if an employee refuses to take a test?

If you have lawfully and reasonably introduced a mandatory testing requirement, you may be able to take disciplinary action, but only if the employee can't work from home.

Before that, you should find out their reasons and see if you can address those concerns. If an employee has valid medical reasons for refusing a test, you'll need to consider the situation particularly carefully – disciplinary action in those circumstances may be difficult to justify and could even be disability discrimination. If the employee can't work from home, you may be able to discipline the employee for failing to follow reasonable management instructions, but only if their refusal is not reasonable.

You must always allow for exceptions. Listen to any concerns and objections the employee has and take them seriously. Even if you've put in place a policy or contractual requirement, you won't be entitled to act on it if your employee's refusal is reasonable in all the circumstances.

Can you send an employee home without pay if they refuse to take a test?

Unless you're contractually entitled to suspend them without pay (which is rare), sending an employee home on nil pay for refusing to take a test could lead to a claim for unlawful deductions from wages. Get legal advice before making any decision to withhold pay.

What happens if an employee tests positive?

An employee who tests positive must self-isolate for 10 days unless they're then told to take a PCR test and that returns negative.

If an employee has been tested as part of a UK government-registered workplace testing programme, their test results will be shared automatically with NHS Test and Trace, their local GP, and Public Health England via the workplace testing e-system. NHS Test and Trace may identify the employee's close contacts and they may be required to self-isolate too. This could include colleagues at work.

Employees who test at home only have to tell you their test result if it's positive.

Does testing mean you can relax existing safety measures?

Workplace testing should continue to be used alongside existing COVID-secure measures for the time being. You should remind your staff to continue to follow those COVID measures and not to relax their efforts.

Data protection

If you collect test data, including the results of employee tests, you must handle it as special category data in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018.

The ICO guidance makes clear that employers considering requiring testing must conduct a data protection impact assessment focusing on testing and the new risks it will create.

Unnecessary data should not be collected and strict confidentiality and data security are essential.

You may also need to update your employer's privacy notice.

More information

See GOV.UK for the latest testing guidance – it's likely to change and evolve over the coming months. We'll also continue to update you with the latest developments.

There is separate guidance for employers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

New Debt Respite Scheme comes into force

New regulations came into force in England and Wales on 4 May to help those struggling with serious money problems. This Debt Respite Scheme is a permanent change rather than a temporary COVID measure. It could grant you critical breathing space if you're in debt, but at the same time impose potentially problematic delays if you're owed money.

What is the scheme?

If a person – which includes a sole trader with business debts – is struggling to pay what they owe, they may be able to get a formal period of 'breathing space'. During this, those they owe money to can't take any action or even contact them about the debt. Any interest or other charges must also be frozen. The idea is the person can use the time to get advice and form a plan to pay off their debts.

There are 2 types of breathing space:

  1. Standard breathing space

This lasts for 60 days, although can be cancelled before then. To get it, the person must speak to a professional debt advice provider. The provider can grant the breathing space period if they think it's appropriate in the circumstances.

  1. Mental health crisis breathing space

To be eligible for this, the person must be receiving mental health crisis treatment as defined in the debt respite scheme. It lasts for however long their mental health crisis treatment lasts, plus 30 days after that treatment ends. It can be cancelled before then.

The person doesn't have to get debt advice from a debt advice provider – instead, an approved mental health professional can certify that they're receiving mental health crisis treatment and provide the required information to a debt advice provider.

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible for either type of breathing space, the person must be living in England or Wales. The debt must be a qualifying debt. Most debts are qualifying debts, including those that arose before the debt respite scheme came into force.

Debts that arise after a breathing space period starts are not qualifying debts. Other non-qualifying debts include any new arrears on secured debts, such as a mortgage.

A person can only get a standard breathing space once in any 12-month period. However, they may be able to get a mental health crisis breathing space if they've already had a breathing space (of either kind).

A debt advisor should only grant a standard breathing space if the person can't, or is unlikely to be able to, repay all or some of their debt.

What happens during a breathing space?

If the person is granted breathing space, the Insolvency Service tell the people who are owed the money. Those people must then stop any attempts to recover the debt until the breathing space period is over. This includes (among other things):

  • Collecting the debt
  • Contacting the person to enforce the debt, including to demand payment or as a precursor to legal action
  • Charging any interest or other fees (for accruing interest, the clock effectively stops during the breathing space period)
  • Starting legal action
  • Enforcing a court or tribunal judgment or order, even if it was got before the breathing space
  • Serving notice to take possession (or taking possession after serving notice) of their home

The people owed money also can't instruct someone else (e.g. a solicitor or a debt collection agency) to do any of these things on their behalf. And if they've already done it when breathing space is granted, it's their responsibility to then tell whoever they've instructed (as they'll be liable for any loss that's suffered as a result).

The only allowed contact is if the person who owes money asks a question, makes a complaint or wants to talk about a solution.

Getting a breathing space period cancelled

If the person owed money feels that the breathing space unfairly prejudices their interests or that there's some reason why it shouldn't have been granted, they can request that the debt advice provider reviews it. If after that they still aren't happy, they can appeal to the county court to ask for it to be cancelled.

More information

We've added sections on the scheme to our law guide, and updated the guidance in our Debt collection letters for unpaid invoices. For extra information, see GOV.UK.

Employee who stopped work over COVID-19 concerns was fairly dismissed rules tribunal

An employer who sacked an employee after they stayed away from the workplace over concerns about coronavirus has successfully defended an Employment Tribunal claim.

The employee was relying on a protection under the Employment Rights Act. This states that if an employee reasonably believes they're in serious and imminent danger, they must not suffer any detriment if they refuse to go to work or take appropriate steps to protect themselves as a result.

In April we reported that this protection is being extended to workers (as well as employees) from the end of May. Its use has rarely cropped up in the past, but the pandemic has made it more relevant to current health and safety work practices and environments. This appears to be the first time a court or tribunal has had to assess it in relation to the pandemic.

The case

The employee worked in a large warehouse. The workplace remained open during the March 2020 lockdown. The employer implemented government safety guidance and told staff about the measures it had put in place so that they could continue working. These included social distancing, wiping down surfaces, offering masks, and staggering start, finish and break times.

The employee developed a cough, which he thought resulted from the temperature and dust in the warehouse. He texted his manager, stating he was staying away from the workplace until the lockdown had eased, as he was worried about infecting his 2 vulnerable children with COVID-19 (tests were not available at that time). His manager replied, seemingly approving it.

There was no further contact between them for nearly a month, at which point the employee learned he'd been dismissed. He then started the tribunal claim for automatic unfair dismissal.

The tribunal agreed that the employee must have had significant concerns at the time, generally about the pandemic and specifically about his 2 children.

However, the tribunal decided that despite these concerns, the employee had not taken any steps to avert danger or raised concerns with his manager before sending his text message. Nor had he mentioned any concerns about workplace danger in the text he sent. He also breached self-isolation guidance to drive a friend to hospital the day after leaving work.

This, together with the safety steps taken by his employer, led the tribunal to conclude he could not show there had been any danger at the workplace. It also rejected his claim that COVID-19 created a situation of serious and imminent workplace danger regardless of an employer's safety precautions – accepting this would have meant any employee could leave the workplace simply by virtue of the pandemic.

What this means for you

As always, this decision is not binding on any other tribunal. The facts are also unusual in that the employee's evidence was vague and contradictory. All such cases will depend on their own facts. In particular, employees might have different circumstances that are important, such as serious health conditions.

However, the case is welcome news for employers. It also demonstrates the importance of implementing appropriate COVID-19 safety measures, as they were a key part of the employer's defense.

COVID-19 round-up: right-to-work checks; shielders can still be furloughed

Two quick changes to note this month:

  1. Temporary changes to the 'right to work' employer check were due to end on 16 May, but will now instead end on 20 June 2021. As a result of the pandemic, you can temporarily make these checks via video call or by viewing scans or photos of documents over email (rather than seeing the originals). However, the process will return to normal from 21 June. You won't don't need to redo any checks that you made using the temporary measures (provided you did so properly).
  1. Shielding has been paused again – while those who have been told they no longer need to shield are no longer eligible for statutory sick pay, the government has confirmed that they remain eligible to be put on furlough and claimed for under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.



If you are looking for support with your team or any training needs please feel to contact us:
Glenys: 07973361390
Rebecca: 07748 156505

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Wow what can I say...So happy I did the course. I was extremely nervous about doing this course and finding the right one. Emma is such a pleasure to deal with. Having one on one meetings made me feel so much more comfortable, she gives you as much time as you need, always available for any support and advice. The course is brilliant, learnt so much information ready to start my journey being an Implant nurse. Feel like I've come away with so much information not just in this field but to help me in my day to day role in my practice. Would definitely recommend this course.

BB, Introduction to Implant Dental Nursing- Individual CPD

I love the course. Give so much self esteem. Its very easy and the tutorial have all info for you to do your work. The best is the teacher Edita how makes the lessons so easy and fun. I always looking forward for new lesson the learn new thinks.

Rasa, Advanced Dental Practice Management Skills

I have just completed the advanced dental practice management skills S3 and I have learned so much from the course. It has given me the tools and knowledge to put what I have learned in daily practice. It's given me the confidence and empowerment to put my new found skills into action. The student portal is very east to navigate and the ongoing support from Glenys has been fantastic and never felt under any pressure as you are able to go at your own pace. To have a formal practice management qualification is a great feeling. Many thanks Glenys.

Claire Maloney, Advanced Dental Practice Management Skills

I have learned so much form completing this course. I am able to put all aspects into daily practice and the improvements made have been very beneficial both to myself and my employer. I was very fortunate to be under the wing of Glenys who supported me through both my professional and personal life. The amount of encouragement I received has truly made a long lasting impression on me. I have developed as a person as well as a leader for my team. I cant recommend Glenys and the course highly enough and I think it should be a necessity for all CQC registered Managers to complete. This course has encouraged me to develop me knowledge and career much much further and I cant wait to see what results I get! Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity.

Sammi Coidan, Level 5 Diploma for Dental CQC Registered Managers (RQF)

This course is very informative it gets you thinking of how to deal with complex situations. i am thoroughly enjoying this course and it has been challenging at times but Glenys has dealt with how I understand the concept of management

DL, Advanced Dental Practice Management Skills

Fantastic well structured course. It made clinical governance and auditing process so much more simpler to carry out.

Nirav Thakker, Getting it Right- Clinical Governance and Audit

The first steps in Implant Dental Nursing course has given me all the basic knowledge I require to start Implant nursing.Emma has been an amazing tutor and has given me so many tips and advice. The course has really helped me with understand what I can and can’t do when I have donned and sterile. It has also taught me the terminology I need and how I can track the patients progress which I stered using in practice straight away. Brilliant course and would recommend it to anyone starting out with Implants

Hannah Berwick, First Steps in Implant Dental Nursing

I can not thank Becki enough for her amazing tutoring throughout this course. Her knowledge and experience gave me a real insight into the role of a Practice Management. Becki was always patient and went the extra mile to ensure I was getting the most out of the course - thank you Becki! The student portal was very easy to use and the course material provided was very informative. I would highly recommend Glenys Bridges and I look forward to my journey as a qualified Practice Manager.

Hana Iqbal, Higher Dental Practice Management - Level 4

I started the introduction to team leading skills for dental nurses and carried on to the higher skills for lead dental nurses. The course has given me lots of new ideas to help with my team and given me a greater understanding of my role as a lead dental nurse. It taught me things that I never realised are part of my job role and I’m looking forward to getting more involved in different areas at my practice. Glenys was very flexible with tutorial times and worked around when I was free and set achievable goals that suited my work and home life. I would definitely recommend this course to lead dental nurses and I can’t wait to start my next course!

Hannah Berwick, Higher Skills for Lead Dental Nurses

I found this course extremely helpful in explaining how I as a dental nurse can help to assist the dentists and the patient during a rubber dam procedure. I am interested in completing further training in placing rubber dam myself, especially with the current circumstances p.

Hannah Berwick , Introduction to rubber dam for dental nurses-Individual CPD

It helped me understand why a rubber dam is used

Ss, Introduction to rubber dam for dental nurses-Individual CPD

I really enjoyed learning what it takes to become a care coordinator and the skills needed. Emma was such a great help in developing my knowledge beyond my potential. I am really grateful that that I had her as a tutor as she made me gain further understanding of how this role should be applied in practice. I am looking forward to put this new qualification to use and I hope to pick up more qualifications from this platform :)

Sarah Nsiah- Amoakoh, Higher Skills in Dental Care Coordination

I found this implant dental nursing ECPD course extremely useful. I am the lead dental nurse at my practice and we are in the process of our new implantologist starting. I knew nothing about implant nursing before this course but now I know terminology, the difference between a sterilised nurse and a non sterilised nurse, the correct way to set up the surgery and so much more. This has given me the basic knowledge I require to assist our implantologist.

Hannah Berwick, Introduction to Implant Dental Nursing- Individual CPD

My third course with Glenys and I would definitely recommend to anyone great help along the way and flexible tutorial times ! Can’t wait to start the next one!!

Lucy Willis, Lead Roles for Care Excellence 2020-Active In-house virtual CPD

My third course with Glenys and I would definitely recommend to anyone great help along the way and flexible tutorial times ! Can’t wait to start the next one!!

Lucy Willis, Lead Roles for Care Excellence 2020-Active In-house virtual CPD

I recently completed the Advanced Team Leading Skills for Dental Nurses S-1. I have 20 years experience of working as a dental nurse and stepped into the role of a lead nurse a few years ago. Although I am a very experienced nurse I initially found stepping into this role a bit tough as I wasn't used to managing others and didn't like asking the other nurses to do things. I would actually do them by myself rather than ask. Throughout this course I learnt that it is important to allocate and delegate tasks to the other nurses.This gives me time to do other tasks I have to do and also makes the other nurses role more enjoyable as they are being given the opportunity to do something different. I had Edita as my tutor and she was fantastic. She was very upbeat and passionate when we had our tutorials each week. Her passion also made me feel motivated. This course and Editas support made me believe in myself. I would highly recommend and look forward to doing further training with Glenys Bridges in the future. The best part of this course for me was gaining my Certificate of Acheivement.

Lisa Clark, Advanced Team Leading Skills for Dental Nurses -S 1

I have been a member of the Glenys Bridges team for over a two and a half years, and have been treated with respect and care ever since. Glenys is very professional, enlightening and insightful to individual student needs. My tutoring sessions with her are really amazing and transformative for me, and she helped me to progress from a Lead dental nurse to Practice Manager. I was going through a rough time and I wasn't sure I would make it, but she showed me that I am important and helped me get through the tough time. Thank you for the past few years, I’ve really enjoyed working with you, and I feel it has been a valuable experience. I have already recommended your services and will continue to do so!

Patrycja Galonzka , Level 5 Diploma for Dental CQC Registered Managers (RQF)

I have completed the Higher Skills for Lead Dental Nurses course with the amazing tutor Edita. Edita is such a warm and friendly person with unavailable knowledge and experience. She helped me to go through the whole course smoothly, without stress and always with good advice. During all tutorials, Edita was giving me support and she motivated me to believe in myself and my future. The skills and knowledge I gained during this course help me every day at work to be a good and confident Lead Nurse. I put into practice everything I have learned and I love to share my knowledge with my colleagues. I would higtly recommend all courses provided by Glenys Bridges and Partners to everyone

Justyna P, Higher Skills for Lead Dental Nurses

This course has been extremely enlightening, useful and enjoyable. The workshops for me were the highlight of the course as its great to interact with others and have all that lovely information explained to you. As I am about to help set up a new business the whole course has set me up to do this with knowledge , tools and confidence. Glenys is a great tutor and offered as much support as I felt I needed and never put me under pressure. I feel sad I have finished the course but hope to attend workshops run by Glenys in the future. Many thanks Sandra Kudla

Sandra Kudla, Advanced Dental Practice Management Skills

I am a mature student and without the encouragement and the belief I my ability I truly believe I would not have been able to complete the course. As a result of completing this course I feel that as a Dental Nurse I have both gained confidence in myself and my ability and have a wealth of new knowledge to use in my job. I can not thank you enough Edita x you are amazing x

Heidi, Advanced Team Leading Skills for Dental Nurses -S 1

I've just completed my Course in High skills in Dental Care Coordination and I honestly couldn't recommend Glenys Bridges enough. Had continuous support from Edita my tutor throughout the Course to help me achieve it! The webiste is simple and easy to use to upload work. I have gained great knowledge on Care Coordination and I am very happy I did my course with Glenys Bridges! Highly Recommend

Zoe , Higher Skills in Dental Care Coordination

This course was a great course to complete alongside my working week. I was able to complete studies at my own pace and receive support from tutors whenever needed. The high point of this course was learning how to performance manage and support my staff effectively to ensure they develop fully in their career. This also means that the business get the best out of their staff. I have benefited hugely from this course as it has given me the confidence to manage my practice effectively and provided me with the knowledge to apply to my work. The tutor support with Gleny's Bridges is second to none. I was able to receive support and advice whenever needed. I would definitely recommend them as a course provider.

Amy Littler , Higher Dental Practice Management - Level 4

I found the course really helped me as I'm newly lead nurse. I found Becki really helped me with different approaches to leading my team. I even spoke to Becki about helping me with preparation to selling our practice. Becki is a great teacher and really cares for the people she helps.

ET, Introduction to Team Leading Skills for Dental Nurses-

Dear Glenys and Edita, The course, Introduction to Team Leading was extremely informative and the approach/teaching was very professional. The one day worship help me recognise differences between being a Manager and Team Leader, and give me an opportunity to gain initial knowledge how to communicate and inspire Dental Nurse Team. I am very keen to enhance my skills and knowledge in this direction.

AB, Introduction to Team Leading for Dental Nurses- Workshop

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