Can employers use the NHS Covid Pass to check employees' coronavirus status?

In England, people can obtain an NHS Covid Pass to show that they:

  • have completed a course of two doses of an approved vaccine, at least 14 days ago;
  • have evidence of a negative PCR or lateral flow test within the last 48 hours; or
  • are exempt from vaccination or testing on the basis of a medical exemption or clinical trial participation.

NHS guidance on the Pass indicates that it is primarily intended for use by customers attending events and venues and the Terms of Use of the Pass specifically state that it is not intended to be used by employers for the purpose of checking the COVID-19 status of their employees. However, use for this purpose is not prohibited and employers may consider using the Pass as part of their approach to providing a COVID-19 secure workplace. A separate Pass is available for travel abroad from England.

If an employer is considering using the Pass to check employees' coronavirus status, it must be clear about the reason for doing this. It must comply with its data protection obligations, unless it checks Passes without scanning the barcode or recording any personal data (see Can employers ask employees if they have had a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination?).

Employers using the Pass will need to decide whether to make it mandatory or voluntary, taking into account the organisation's coronavirus risk assessment and the other measures in place to prevent infection. Employees must be made aware of the consequences of not obtaining a Pass. Adopting a mandatory approach will raise potential employment law issues but will present less of a risk than a policy of mandatory vaccination, as employees have the option of taking a test as an alternative to vaccination. Employers should ensure that employees have access to lateral flow tests. For details of the employment law issues involved, see Can an employer require employees to have a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination? and Can an employer require employees to be tested for coronavirus (COVID-19)?.

Where employees have been vaccinated in other parts of the UK, or abroad, employers should be prepared to accept suitable alternative evidence of their vaccination status.

In Wales, an NHS COVID Pass is available to those who are fully vaccinated or who have had a negative lateral flow test. The Pass is for use for entry to certain venues and events.

In Scotland, individuals can obtain a COVID status certificate if they have been fully vaccinated, or have a recent negative test result, for entry to venues and events.

In Northern Ireland, a COVID certificate is available only for those who have been vaccinated. This is intended for use for travel and entry to hospitality venues and events. The certificate is not available based on a negative lateral flow test for those who have not been vaccinated, therefore it will be more difficult for employers to justify its use for entry to the workplace.