How to manage Covid testing for your employees

By Marta Kalas, Thomson Screening

Just as we did with mask wearing, we’re all going to get used to Covid-19 testing; one way or another, it’s going to be around for some time. This raises a few questions for many businesses:

  • Would regular testing and recording immunisation status help improve service to customers?
  • Will it help look after employees?
  • How will it affect the bottom line?
  • How can it be done with the minimum amount of disruption?

A great place to start is creating a Covid-19 Toolkit and adding Covid-19 to your Communications Plan.

Covid 19 Testing and vaccination status are sensitive topics, I would recommend starting an open discussion with your staff: how they feel about being tested and what risks they see in adopting regular point of care testing.

Once you and your staff have taken a decision, you will need a plan. 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. Preferably, you need a system, like the WorkScreener Covid Manager, that works remotely and securely.

With the proportion of vaccinated people increasing in the workforce, it 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.

Here are five good reasons why you should track employee covid testing and vaccination status:

  1. If you track it, you can make it systematic, transparent and fair. If you don’t you are at the mercy of office gossip and the potential for discrimination
  2. This is useful information that protects not just your staff but also your clients and partners. You can use it for demonstrating that you care
  3. You will make better decisions and hopefully avoid an outbreak at your workplace
  4. It is what a responsible employer would do; looking after both staff and clients and support returning to normal as soon as we are able to
  5. It is quite easy to do and once you start it can become a simple part of your workplace’s routine, just like washing hands and online calls.

With the right tools in place, tracking and appropriately responding to your employee’s Covid testing and vaccination status is quick, easy, and secure. We all hope that we’ll be back to near-normal soon and for businesses this is likely to mean a surge in enquiries and customers. By preparing yourself now you can be ready to make the most of the opportunities coming your way.

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.

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