From education to employment

Govt must act to strengthen NHS Test and Trace ahead of new school year

Scientists have warned that current testing and contact tracing is inadequate to prevent a second wave of coronavirus when schools in the UK reopen.

Layla Moran100x100Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran said: 

“After months being cooped up at home, millions of children are looking forward to getting back to school in September, but safety must remain the top priority.

“In the absence of a vaccine, a comprehensive test, trace and isolate system is the only way to keep people safe as we reopen schools. The Government must do everything in its power to strengthen that system if we are to have any hope of a safe start to the new school year. 

“Equally, the Government need to be honest about the very real risk that, if they do not get the NHS Test and Trace system in order, or in the event that we see a sharp rise in infections, children may have to go back to learning from home. Ministers must put in place safeguards now to ensure children are still able to get their education in this worst case scenario.”

NHS Test and Trace – what do employers need to know?

The new NHS test and trace system will ask anyone in England who is tested positive for COVID-19 to log onto the test and trace website and provide details of anyone they have recently been in contact with. Contact tracers will then work to track down and contact these people and ask them to stay at home for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms. Similar systems are active in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Wales will introduce its system in early June.

In light of this announcement, the government is calling on employers to encourage their staff to follow the rules and to support them in staying away from work if asked to isolate. Essentially, this means that employees may need to take weeks off work with limited notice, and it is essential that employers are aware of what to do in this situation.  


Staff told to self-isolate in line with government guidance should receive statutory sick pay (SSP) of £95.85 per week from day one of their absence, if they meet eligibility criteria for SSP. This is the case whether they have coronavirus symptoms or not. If the company provides any additional contractual pay, it is down to them if they would also pay this in the period of self-isolation.


The government accepts that not everyone contacted will display symptoms and, to this end, employers should consider if these individuals can be asked to work from home during their period of self-isolation. If this is not possible, or they do become unwell, they will need to be provided at least SSP.


To help cover SSP costs, from 26 May 2020 eligible employers can reclaim up to two weeks of SSP from the government that has been paid out due to absence related to the coronavirus. This is called the Coronavirus SSP Rebate Scheme. To be eligible to apply for the scheme, employers must have had less than 250 members of staff on 28 February 2020. While most staff can be claimed for, including zero hour workers, they must have been on a PAYE payroll scheme created and started on or before 28 February 2020.

Kate Palmer, Associate Director of Advisory of Peninsula

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