By Marta Kalas, Thomson Screening
The country is opening up. You can now get a pint, from an actual pub. There are things you can do now that you couldn’t do a short while ago. Soon (touch wood) you’ll be able to do even more. You may be feeling more comfortable about the moving-house plans you had put on hold. And when you do next look to use the services of an estate or letting agent, what will sway you when making your choice of who to go with? Would the firm that regularly tests their staff, regular contractors and maintenance providers for Covid-19 be more appealing than a firm that did not?
Schools across the UK are being helped to stay open by large-scale lateral flow testing. And many businesses have already adopted regular rapid testing. Just like masks, frequent handwashing and social distancing, one way or another, testing is going to be part of our lives for some time to come.
Many businesses are evaluating some very simple questions:
- Would regular testing and recording immunisation status help to improve customer service?
- Will it help look after employees?
- How will it affect the bottom line?
- How can it be done with the minimum amount of disruption?
With the proportion of vaccinated people increasing in the workforce, it now 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.
Testing and vaccination status are sensitive topics, I would recommend starting an open discussion with your staff: how do they feel about being tested and what risks do they see in adopting regular point of care testing? Through an open debate, you can easily provide information to staff.
Once you and your staff have taken a decision, you will need a plan. A great place to start is by gathering together a Covid19 Toolkit and creating (or updating) your Communications Plan to include Covid19.
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 in the first place. Preferably, you need a system, like the WorkScreener Covid Manager, that works remotely and securely.
Here are five good reasons why you should track your employee’s covid testing and vaccination status:
- 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
- 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
- You will make better decisions and hopefully avoid an outbreak at your workplace
- 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
- 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.
We all hope that we’ll be back to near-normal soon. For businesses this is likely to mean a surge in enquiries and customers. By preparing yourself now, and with the right tools in place to track and appropriately respond to your employee’s Covid testing and vaccination status, you can set yourself apart from competitors and help you 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.