As I am sure you are all aware the government is relaxing some of the rules regarding the recent Covid 19 lockdown. For instance, in England from April 12th most shops and retail premises have re-opened. Pubs and restaurants are also opening but only for open air service. As we go through the next few weeks there are more planned relaxations. These are still subject to regional variations.
In the UK we have been very successful with the testing and vaccination programme. Many of you will now have had your first vaccine injection and I am sure most of you will have been tested for the virus at some point.The company has managed well through these difficult times not least because of the efforts of all our staff. Most of our sites have continued to operate subject to stringent guidelines including social distancing and face coverings. These arrangements are varied and subject to collaboration with clients.
The Governments “Stay-at-home” message to office-based workers is no longer mandatory. A phased return to workplaces will be allowed as we move into the summer months. There may be local variations. In recent months some of you have been working from home. Others have attended their offices regularly. We are a team and a team functions much better when there is interaction with your colleagues. Consequently, I would now like to encourage a return to your usual place of work. However, if you feel you are particularly vulnerable and should continue to work at home, a risk assessment will be carried out. Each case will be dealt with individually.
The company recognises that some staff have concerns about returning. Like many organisations we will be offering free rapid lateral flow tests, where available, in all our offices. We would encourage staff to take a test twice weekly. (3 or 4 days apart) and get more tests as and when you need. About 1 in 3 people with coronavirus do not have symptoms but can still infect others. Getting tested regularly is the only way to know if you have the virus. By testing not only are you protecting yourself, your family, and your friends but you will also be showing respect by helping to keep your work colleagues safe. If people test positive and self-isolate, it helps stop the virus spreading and safeguards other staff.
If you attend the office full time the tests will be available on Mondays and Thursdays. For those employees who only attend the office on a part time basis one test per week will be sufficient. On-line training is available to regional staff to assist and supervise the testing. The results from office testing will be recorded on the NHS portal.
If you wish to test at home the NHS is making home test kits available to all free of charge and on request. The choice is yours.
If you would prefer to do a home-kit test you will be required to report every result (positive, negative, or void) to the NHS via www.gov.uk/report-covid19-result or by phone. Try to do it as soon as you get the result.
The advice in this announcement is predominantly based on NHS England advice and it should be noted that there is similar but slightly different advice provided by the Scottish Government, such as the special arrangements prior to travelling to the Scottish Islands. To find out what you need to do please talk to your regional manager and/or visit https://www.gov.scot/communitytesting.
If you test negative, keep following coronavirus advice including regular handwashing, social distancing and wearing a face covering.
If you test positive or get coronavirus symptoms, make sure you self-isolate immediately and get a PCR test (a different coronavirus test) to confirm the result. If you test positive you must inform your line manager. For the latest help and advice, go to: https://www.nhs.uk/coronavirus
If you have been in close contact with a work colleague who has had a positive lateral flow test and you remain negative, you may be asked to take a lateral flow test every day for 7 days whilst remaining at work.
The company will be following the NHS guidance regarding the disposal of the test kits once used.
Masks and face coverings will not be compulsory but anyone who wishes to remain covered can do so. As always hand sanitiser will be provided and hand cleanliness will be encouraged.
It is our duty as an employer to provide a safe place of work for everyone. I do hope that these guidelines will help all of you as we move away from lockdown and start to return to some normality.
If you have concerns about taking the test or you have reason for the refusal because you are worried or concerned, please feel free to contact HR directly and to make an appointment to discuss your concerns.
Please find some useful links for NHS guidance. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/understanding-lateral-flow-antigen-testing-for-people-without-symptoms
A P Rimoldi
Group Chief Executive