Pings from the NHS Covid-19 app advising people to self-isolate are intended to help reduce the spread of coronavirus. But employers are complaining that this ‘pingdemic’ is resulting in staff shortages.
Though it’s not clear whether this is a legal requirement, pinged employees need to self-isolate for 10 days. This means that businesses may lose 10 days’ work if crucial employees self-isolate, especially where it isn’t possible to work from home. We take a look at possible solutions for businesses and employees who have to quarantine.
What should you do if pinged by the NHS app?
If pinged by the NHS (National Health Service) app, you’re required to self-isolate for 10 days. Basically, a ping means that you’ve been near someone who has tested positive, and you might have contracted the virus. As a result, you may need to get tested.
You should notify your employer about the ping and share the notification. This will help your employer make a plan for you and the business. You may have four options:
- Work from home if it’s possible
- Take paid holiday leave
- Receive contractual sick pay
- Get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you’re eligible
According to the gov.uk website, in certain limited situations, fully vaccinated employees identified as contacts may be able to leave self-isolation to undertake critical work.
How should employers treat pinged employees?
If an employee is told to self-isolate by NHS app and their employer allows them to come into work, the firm could face a fine of £1,000 or more.
It’s the employer’s responsibility to make arrangements for working from home, if possible, and ensure employees get paid during the self-isolation days. It’s also important that employers make workers aware of the support available to help them self-isolate.
How can businesses respond to the pingdemic?
Employers have been hit hard by the pingdemic. Staff shortages have seen some businesses close, while others are clutching at straws. This calls for precautions and innovation.
- Make changes in the workplace – just because restrictions have been lifted, it doesn’t mean the pandemic has ended. Employers and employees may need to stick to the Covid-19 protocols introduced in the early days of the pandemic. This might reduce the number of pings.
- Utilise available employees – an employee working in a department that isn’t involving could take up the responsibilities of a self-isolated employee.
- Partner with employment agencies – where working at home isn’t possible, employers could source staff from employment agencies. This could guarantee a continuous supply of employees.
- Set up isolation funds – it’s always best to save money for a rainy day. In this case, the fund would cater for any monetary requirements brought about by employee isolation. A lack of such a fund could lead to business closure, especially when short-staffed.
If needed, employers could try accessing a business loan. If they’re not eligible for the loan, then perhaps a business credit card could help.
While the pingdemic is taking its toll on businesses in England, there is some good news! The government is making progress in setting up Covid testing areas. From 16 August, those who are fully vaccinated – and unvaccinated under-18s – can take PCR tests instead of self-isolating, if pinged.