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Member News: Workplace Covid-19 Testing Programme expanded to small businesses

The Department for Health has announced the expansion of its Workforce Testing Programme to all organisations with 10 or more employees or volunteers. This had previously been restricted to organisations with more than 50.

Employers wishing to participate in workforce testing schemes should complete an online expression of interest, which can be accessed via the LINK

When applying, employers will need to provide details of the following:

  • Your NI Company Registration Number
  • Industry/Sector for your organisation
  • A short summary of your company and how you meet the criteria
  • How many employees your company has and how many cannot work from home
  • Contact details of a key contact in your organisation who the Department can speak to.

Businesses with less than 10 employees

Provisions has also been made to enable small businesses or organisations with 10 or less employees who cannot work from home to access rapid LFD (Lateral Flow Device) tests where appropriate. The range of options will be expanding over the coming weeks, but currently includes an LFD Collect service from Local Testing Sites and a Home Delivery Service.

Small businesses and people working from home can access testing through the following options:

  • Find your nearest rapid flow test site: LINK
  • Find a local site to collect local flow device tests to perform at home: LINK
  • Ordering local flow device tests for delivery to your home address: LINK

Benefits of the Testing Programme to employers:

As the number of cases of Covid-19 in the community continues to fall, asymptomatic workplace testing forms part of the Executive’s strategy to suppress the virus as lockdown measures start to relax.

Asymptomatic testing can help to protect staff, give confidence to those who continue to come back into work as well as improving the overall resilience of business operations. This Programme will also play a vital role in trying to prevent outbreaks of Covid-19 in certain work sites which have been disrupted by the spread of the virus.

Government support for workforce testing

There is a range of support available for NI organisations to introduce workforce testing, including:

  • Facilitation of access to relevant DHSC support materials, including a guidebook, workforce blueprint, digital signage assets and a clinical standard operating procedure (SOP);
  • Provision, via DHSC, of Lateral Flow Tests from the Northern Ireland allocation for a defined period subject to contractual arrangements;
  • Access to the online workforce testing portal providing digital solutions covering user registration, results capture and delivery guidance;
  • Provision of PPE (Public Sector Only);
  • Training – online training and information from DHSC. Training opportunities may also be available from local partners and providers.

Responsibility of employers

Approved organisations will sign a contract with the DHSC. Under the terms of the contract:

  • The organisation will construct and set up testing environments in accordance with SOP guidelines (including storage areas for tests) for sample collection, analysis, disposal and reporting;
  • Tests must be supervised by employer provided staff who will be given suitable training via an online platform;
  • Employees will be tested under a schedule as defined by the employer;
  • Testing will not be compulsory;
  • Sample materials need to be treated as clinical waste. Disposal will take place at the place of test, in line with local (Northern Ireland) requirements;
  • Test results will be shared with NPEx (National Pathology Exchange) prior to anonymised onward distribution to the Public Health Agency;
  • Under current legislation, employers do not receive results directly.

For further information, including answers to FAQs, please visit the LINK