Companies with more than 50 employees will be offered rapid Covid testing - what you need to know

Monday, 8th February 2021, 10:49 am
Updated Monday, 8th February 2021, 11:20 am
Previously the rapid testing initiative was only available to larger businesses with more than 250 employees (Photo: Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

The Government will offer rapid tests to workplaces with more than 50 employees in a bid to get the spread of Covid-19 under control.

According to a statement, cabinet ministers have been tasked with encouraging their sectors to take up the offer of rapid workplace testing, in an effort to normalise the practice across both public and private sectors.

Previously, lateral flow tests - which produce results in less than 30 minutes - were only available to firms with more than 250 staff.

A total of 112 organisations across almost 500 sites have already joined the Government-backed rapid testing scheme, and now more medium and small companies are able to sign up, due to the criteria change.

Businesses that have already signed up to workplace testing include the likes of Royal Mail, Tate & Lyle Sugars, Primula, Moy Park, Octopus Energy, Apetito and DVLA.

“This expansion of testing will find more positive cases, keeping workers who cannot work from home from unknowingly passing on the virus and protecting vital public services,” the Government said.

‘Strongly urge businesses to sign up for rapid testing’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “To save lives and protect the NHS, we have again asked for everyone to work from home. But we know that for some, this is not possible, which is why the workplace rapid testing programme is so important.

“Employers should regularly test their staff, and this drive across the Government to raise awareness and encourage more businesses to introduce rapid testing for employees is incredibly important.

“When you consider that around one in three people have the virus without even knowing it, it becomes clear why focus testing on those without symptoms is so essential.

“We are already working with many employers to scale up workforce testing, spanning the food industry, retail sector, transport network, and across the public sector too.

“I strongly urge businesses and employees across the country to take up this offer of rapid testing to help stop this virus spreading further.”

‘Rapid tests are not a magic bullet’

Dan Shears, GMB union’s health, safety and environment director, said: “These rapid tests are not a magic bullet, and it is vital that employers understand the limitations and take steps to address them.

“Everyone wants to ensure that infectious workers keep away from the workplace, but this means getting the introduction of testing right - with confirmatory testing to avoid “false negatives” and crucially ensuring that all protective measures to reduce transmission are implemented to the maximum.”

Labour Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth also said: “Extra workplace testing is welcome but so much more needs to be done to make workplaces Covid-secure including improving ventilation and upgraded PPE standards.

“This is even more important when the most recent data shows hundreds of outbreaks in workplaces since the start of January.”

How to register your business to order rapid tests

You can register your business to order Covid-19 rapid lateral flow tests for your employees if:

  • Your business is registered in England
  • Your employ 50 or more people
  • Your employees cannot work from home

To start the registration process, you’ll need:

  • The name of your company
  • Your company registration number
  • An email address

To begin, head over to the Government website and fill out the online registration form.

The Government states that if you or your employees have symptoms of Covid-19 then you should not use this service for testing - instead, order an individual test and stay at home.

You can order individual tests for free via the Government website.