By Marta Kalas, Thomson Screening
Imagine a firm of estate agents where the decision has been made to regularly test their staff, regular contractors and maintenance providers for Covid-19. And imagine another firm that has decided not to. Which firm of estate agents would you be more comfortable showing potential buyers round your house, or showing you round a number of potential new homes?
The country is opening up, but masks, social distancing and frequent handwashing are going to be part of our lives for some time. As is testing, one way or another.
Schools across the UK have been helped to stay open by large-scale lateral flow testing, and many businesses have already adopted regular rapid testing, with others planning to do the same when the country fully opens. The government has announced that small businesses (over 10 employees), not just larger companies, will have access to government funded Lateral Flow testing, so there a few questions business owners should be asking:
A great place to start is by gathering together a Covid19 Toolkit and creating (or updating) your Communications Plan to include Covid19.
With the proportion of vaccinated people increasing in the workforce, it now makes sense to record it at the same time. Some people cannot or will not be vaccinated, but knowing their status gives you an option to change working practices to support them or their colleagues.
Testing and vaccination status are sensitive topics, I would recommend starting an open discussion with your staff: how do they feel about being tested and what risks do they see in adopting regular point of care testing?
Through an open debate, you can easily provide information to staff.
Once you and your staff have taken a decision, you will need a plan. It needs to be systematic, transparent and fair. This is the best way to avoid discrimination and the appearance of unfair practices.
This means that outcomes of both testing and vaccination status should be kept as part of your records. Health status is sensitive information and needs to be handled with additional security. It can be simple, if you use the right tools, or a minefield if you use paper and Excel.
Some companies try to carry out testing but don’t record the outcome, or only record if somebody has reported positive. The BIG problem with this is what does an absence of result actually mean: was there a test that was negative or simply no test? How do you know/how can you check if somebody simply forgot to test or even forgot to send you the results after testing? Tricky. As well as knowing who did what, you also need to know who missed what and when.
Fortunately, the government is helping in two ways:
First, by providing test kits free of charge through the Workplace test scheme: https://www.gov.uk/get-workplace-coronavirus-tests.
They also funded, through Innovate UK, the development of a new online tool called WorkScreener Covid Manager that manages the entire process with a few clicks, supports bulk uploading of testing data and puts control and information into the hands of managers keen to ensure the safety of their workforce and customers. There is a small charge for this, which is much reduced by the funding that is in place.
Some employees would prefer to carry out tests in their home. This is a big bonus of rapid testing; they can collect a set of tests and keep using them, letting their employer know the results before they leave home. It is much better to find out that somebody tested positive before they come into the office, right? This is not something you want to do manually on a spreadsheet – it’s time consuming, open to errors, and difficult to keep sensitive information confidential. Although lots of people do send their results in emails, they do this without realising that this is sensitive information they are emailing and their HR manager should not be asking them to do this in the first place. Preferably, you need a system, like the WorkScreener Covid Manager, that works remotely and securely.
Here are five good reasons why you should track your employee’s covid testing and vaccination status:
With the right tools in place, tracking and appropriately responding to your employee’s Covid testing and vaccination status is quick, easy, and secure. It could also give your company an advantage over your competitors.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marta Kalas is co-founder of Thomson Screening, creators of the WorkScreener Covid Manager, a software platform that enables businesses and testing providers to scale irrespective of where, how and what test is carried out. Functions include recoding test results at home, recording and searching by barcode, recording staff, visitors, clients as separate entities. Employers can export data into NHS Test &Trace, where supported, as well as other systems, as required.
A separate module using questionnaire and consent recording and COVID vaccination status alongside test results.
WorkScreener Covid Manager is designed to adapt rapidly to fast changing requirements and is fully scalable. The Innovate UK grant enables Thomson Screening to utilise investments made in the core functionality of the company’s products used in the NHS, especially its SchoolScreener Imms product, to rapidly repurpose and deploy the software.