Must employees who are exempt from the duty to self-isolate still inform their employer if they are a close contact of someone with coronavirus?

In England, employees have a duty to inform their employer if they are required to self-isolate having been informed by NHS Test and Trace that they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19). The duty to inform the employer does not apply if the employee is covered by an exemption from the requirement to self-isolate.

Exemptions apply (in England) where the individual:

  • has been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days before the contact;
  • is below the age of 18 years and six months (under the relevant legislation, the exemption applies only to those under the age of 18, but government guidance states that 18-year-olds will be treated as exempt until six months after their birthday, to give them time to be fully vaccinated);
  • has taken part in an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial; or
  • is not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons.

The exemptions differ slightly in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Even where an employee is exempt from the requirement to self-isolate, there is a chance that they may be infected with coronavirus and able to pass it on. Therefore, as part of their health and safety measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the workplace, employers may want employees to inform them if they are a close contact, even where they are covered by an exemption. The employer could decide to advise employees in this situation to obtain a PCR test and to work from home, if possible, while they wait for the result.

When considering implementing a policy on this area, employers should consult with employees. Any policy should avoid the need to record details of the reason for the employee's exemption from the self-isolation duty (see Can employers ask employees if they have had a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination?).

Employees who have symptoms or who have tested positive must still self-isolate for the full period. The exemptions apply only where the employee is a close contact of someone with coronavirus.