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2 December 2021

Workplace Daily Contact Testing (DCT) – changes due to Omicron variant

On Saturday 27 November, the Prime Minister announced that the government is introducing new temporary and precautionary measures following the emergence of the Omicron variant in the UK.

As part of these measures, an individual identified by NHS Test and Trace as the close contact of someone who is suspected or confirmed to have the Omicron variant of COVID-19 will not be eligible to take part in workplace DCT.

For non-household contacts (who would otherwise be eligible to participate in Workplace DCT), this will mean they instead need to self-isolate until 10 days after their most recent contact with the case. They may be eligible to apply for the Test and Trace Support Payment depending on their circumstances.

The Workplace DCT scheme was set up as an alternative to self-isolation – for non-household contacts who would otherwise be under a legal duty to self-isolate – in certain sectors and workplaces that provide essential services, so as to minimise disruption from staff absences. Following identification of the Omicron variant, urgent work is ongoing nationally and internationally to fully understand the behaviour of this variant with regards to vaccines, treatments and transmissibility. Whilst this work takes place, and as a precaution to slow down the spread of the variant, the following targeted measures are therefore being introduced:

  • All international arrivals must take a Day 2 PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result
  • Anyone notified by NHS Test and Trace that they are a contact of a suspected or confirmed Omicron case must self-isolate, regardless of their vaccination status
  • Face coverings will be compulsory in shops and on public transport.

Your employee will be notified by NHS Test and Trace if they have to self-isolate because they are a contact of someone suspected or confirmed to have the Omicron variant.

In order to support these measures, it would be helpful if you could:

  • alert your employees to this temporary change in eligibility i.e. that they can no longer take part if they are contacted by NHS Test and Trace and advised they are the contact of a suspected or confirmed Omicron case
  • ask staff who come in for testing as part of the scheme to confirm that they have not been told they are a contact of a suspected or confirmed Omicron case and, if they have been notified, inform them that the rules have changed and they will need to self-isolate.

The UK Health Security Agency continues to monitor the situation closely, in partnership with scientific and public health organisations across the world. If you have any queries please contact 119.

 

Omicron Workplaces DCT Q&A

1. Can employees participate in Workplace DCT if they are contacts of someone with suspected Omicron?

Individuals identified as a close contact of a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, irrespective of vaccination status or age, are no longer eligible to participate in Daily Contact Testing. We will keep DCT under review as more evidence on Omicron emerges.

2. Who will notify individuals that they are a contact of someone with confirmed or suspected Omicron variant?

Contacts will be informed by the local health protection team or NHS Test and Trace.

3. Do people need to inform their employer if they are a contact of a confirmed or suspected Omicron case?

Anyone told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace has a legal duty to inform their employer as soon as possible if they are due to work somewhere other than where they are self-isolating. Failure to do so could result in the person being issued with a fixed penalty notice for £50. They are not legally required to give the reason why they have been told to self-isolate, i.e. they don’t have to specify that is it because of contact with a confirmed or suspected Omicron case, but we would encourage employees to do so.

4. How can someone prove to their employer that they have been told to self-isolate?

Contacts of people who are suspected or confirmed to have the Omicron variant will be told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. These contacts will receive written confirmation of the requirement to do so (either by email or text message), which can be used as evidence.

5. Will employees be eligible for TTSP if they can no longer take part in Workplace DCT?

From 30 November 2021, all close contacts of a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant are required to self-isolate, regardless of any exemptions from self-isolation, such as their age or vaccination status.

This means the following groups may be eligible for TTSP if they meet the criteria:

  • people who are fully vaccinated who are identified as a suspected or confirmed contact of someone with the Omicron variant.
  • a parent or guardian of a child who is a contact of someone suspected or confirmed to have the Omicron variant.

Contacts of people who are suspected or confirmed to have the Omicron variant will be told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. These contacts will receive written confirmation of the requirement to do so (either by email or text message), which will be considered evidence before approving a payment.

6. Will household contacts remain exempt from Workplace DCT?

We have no plans to extend the scheme to household contacts