Lateral flow testing in workplaces
Information for businesses interested in introducing COVID-19 lateral flow testing for employees
- Lateral flow testing can help to find COVID-19 cases in workplaces and stop the virus from spreading.
- Identifying COVID-19 cases early prevents larger outbreaks and protects the health of your staff, ensuring your business can continue to operate.
- You need to be ready to carry out tests properly, investing resources and time.
- Remember, testing won’t identify all cases. Ensure all Public Health measures such as Hands, Face, Space still need to be in place and reinforced.
What is Lateral Flow Device (LFD)?
- Lateral Flow Testing is a quick way to see if you have COVID-19.
- It is used to test people who do not have symptoms of coronavirus.
- 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 have no symptoms and may be spreading it unknowingly. Testing people without symptoms is an important tool to identify those people and stop the virus from spreading.
What’s the difference between LFD and standard PCR tests?
- In Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing, a swab is used to collect a sample from the patient's tonsils and inside their nose. This is sent to a laboratory where it is tested for small fragments of the virus using specialist equipment. Because it needs to be sent away, the PCR testing takes longer, around one to two days.
- LFD samples can be processed on site. The swab is inserted into a tube of liquid for a short time which extracts any COVID-19 virus. A few drops of liquid are added to a small strip of paper. Within 30 minutes, the strip will show up with two lines if it is positive, one line on the top of it is negative, or one line on the bottom of the test is invalid. Watch a Department of Health video explaining how to take a self-test using LFD kit
Do I need to notify anyone about positive COVID-19 cases in my workforce?
- Yes, please email Contact Tracing Birmingham: email@example.com (7 days a week).
Visit the dedicated web page to see where you can access LFD testing in Birmingham
How frequently should I test my staff?
- You can order free rapid lateral flow tests to test your employees twice a week in the workplace.
What does a positive LFD mean?
- If your LFD test was an assisted test, you must self-isolate immediately. You could be fined if you do not do this.
If your LFD test was an assisted test:
- You must self isolate immediately. You could be fined if you do not do this. You may be entitled to a one-off payment of £500 through the NHS Test and Trace Support Payment scheme if you are required to self isolate.
- You should also take a follow up PCR test as soon as possible and within 2 days of the positive LFD test at the latest.
- While waiting for your follow up PCR test result you and your household members should read the guidance on the GOV.UK website.
- If you receive a negative follow-up PCR test result, and this PCR test was taken within 2 days of the positive LFD test, you and your household can stop self-isolating.
However, you and your household must continue to self isolate if
- PCR test result is positive
- you choose not to take a follow-up PCR test.
- your follow up PCR test was taken more than 2 days after the positive LFD test result.
It is important to book your follow up PCR test as soon as you can following your positive LFD test result.
Identify close contacts.
- A close contact is a person is someone who had tested positive for COVID-19 anytime from 48 hours before the person became symptomatic, up to 10 days from onset of symptoms (this is when they are infectious to others). Visit the GOV.UK website to see a full list of who would be considered a close contact
What happens if an employee tests negative?
- A negative test means the virus was not found in the swab.
- Lateral Flow Tests can miss individuals who are early on in their COVID-19 infection. While the employee does not need to isolate, they must continue to take all government preventive measures, including social distancing, wearing a mask, and regularly washing their hands.
- If they develop symptoms, they must self isolate immediately, visit the GOV.UK website to book a standard PCR test
Should staff who have tested positive be retested before they return to work?
- No, staff who have previously tested positive and completed their 10-day self-isolation should not be re-tested using LFD
- or PCR for 90 days from their last positive test result. This is because these people will no longer be infectious and are therefore safe to return to work (once well) but may still have traces of the virus which would be detected by a test.
Should I test staff who have received a COVID-19 vaccination?
Yes, the COVID-19 vaccination will reduce the severity of the disease. It may take a few weeks for your body to build up some protection from the first dose of vaccine.
Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective, some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but this should be less severe. A full course of vaccination will reduce your chance of becoming seriously ill. We don’t know how much it will reduce the risk of you passing on the virus. So, it is important to continue to follow current national guidance.
To protect yourself and your family, friends, and colleagues, you must still:
- practice social distancing
- wear a face mask
- wash your hands carefully and frequently
- open windows to let fresh air in