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How do I…

Managing staff who have tested positive for COVID-19

One of your employees has tested positive for COVID-19. What should you do? The AOP offers some advice

plant on desk
Getty/psisa

The first thing to know is that the employee in question must go home and self-isolate immediately for at least 10 days, in accordance with latest government guidance.

When the employee starts isolating can depend on their specific situation:

  • If the employee had a test because they had symptoms, they must self-isolate for at least 10 days from when the symptoms started
  • If the employee had a test but did not have symptoms, they must self-isolate for 10 days from when they had the test.

Speak to the employee and identify any other people whom they have been in contact with. Keep a list, as you may be required to provide this information to NHS Test and Trace.

The employee should ensure that NHS Test and Trace is aware they have tested positive.

A ‘contact’ is a person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 any time from two days before the person was symptomatic up to 10 days from the onset of symptoms (this is when they are infectious to others). For example, a contact can be:

  • Someone in the same household
  • A person who has had face-to-face contact (within one metre) with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, including:
    • being coughed on
    • having a face-to-face conversation within one metre
    • having skin-to-skin physical contact, or
    • contact within one metre for one minute or longer without face-to-face contact.
  • A person who has been within two metres of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes
  • A person who has travelled in a small vehicle with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or in a large vehicle or plane near someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Does the workplace have to close?

No, not necessarily. However, you may wish to review your COVID-19 workplace risk assessment.

If you are cleaning because of a known or suspected case of COVID-19 in the workplace you should follow current Government guidance.

Is the employee (or worker) entitled to statutory sick pay?

Yes, both employees and workers who self-isolate are entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) from the first day they are absent from work if it’s because:

  • They have COVID-19
  • They have COVID-19 symptoms, for example a high temperature, a new and continuous cough, or a loss of or change in their sense of smell or taste
  • Someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms
  • They've been advised to stay at home by their doctor because of an underlying health condition
  • They've been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111
  • They've been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace in England, Test and Protect in Scotland or Test, Trace, Protect in Wales, because they've been in close contact with someone who tested positive.

What if a patient tests positive after the employee has seen them?

If health and social care staff are providing direct care to a patient or a resident with COVID-19 and are wearing the correct PPE in accordance with the current IPC guidance, they will not be considered as a contact for the purposes of contact tracing and isolation, and will not be required to self-isolate for 14 days. Please note that following contradictory local opinions on this issue, we have sought further clarification from NHS England on this point and will issue further updates if this situation changes.

What if the employee works in a health or social care setting?

The Government has provided specific guidance for managing staff and exposed patients or residents in health and social care settings here.

When can my employee return to the workplace?

Do maintain contact with the employee during the period of self-isolation, but also follow any sickness or absence policies that your organisation has in place.

Prior to the end of the 10 days of self-isolation, ask if the employee has any COVID-19 symptoms. If they are symptom free, they should return to the workplace.

If the employee still exhibits symptoms, they should request another test or seek appropriate medical advice.