Archive RSS
Blog  »  August 2021  »  New Self-Isolation Rules: What the Employer Needs to Know - Blog
Aug 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

New Self-Isolation Rules: What the Employer Needs to Know

August 16th 2021 marks a landmark moment in the self-isolation rules implemented to help manage the coronavirus pandemic in England. As of this date, close contacts of someone who has tested positive for coronavirus will not have to automatically self-isolate for 10 days, provided they are fully vaccinated or are aged under 18 years 6 months. This is a huge development for employers who have had to manage the impact of significant numbers of employees being identified as close contacts resulting in significant staff shortages and often severe disruption to the business.

Here is an insight into what the new self-isolation rules mean for employers:

What self-isolation obligations now apply if an employee tests positive?

There has been no change to the self-isolation obligations for employees who test positive. They are required to self-isolate for 10 full days after the date their symptoms first started, or from the date of their positive PCR test, whichever is earlier.

What self-isolation obligations apply if an employee displays COVID symptoms?

Employees who display any COVID symptoms should immediately go home, arrange to take a PCR test and self-isolate while they await the results. ‘Symptoms’ of coronavirus according to the NHS are deemed to be (1) a new continuous cough; (2) a high temperature; or (3) loss of taste or smell.

Do employees have to inform their employer if: (1) they have been contacted by NHS Test & Trace; and/or (2) if they are alerted by the NHS COVID-19 App that they are a close contact of a positive case?

Employees are only legally obliged to notify their employer if NHS Test & Trace informs them that they are required to self-isolate. From 16 August 2021, there will be circumstances where NHS Test & Trace is in touch with an employee but it is then identified that the employee is exempt from self-isolation due to their vaccination status. In these circumstances, employees are not required to notify their employer.

How can employers determine an employee’s vaccination status?

The new rules place the spotlight on an employee’s vaccination status and raise the question of what an employer which is where both employment law and data privacy considerations come into play. Employers must be aware that health data is highly protected as special category data.

The issue is likely to come to the fore in respect of employees who choose to notify the employer that they have been identified as a close contact, or there is a positive workplace case where the employer needs to identify who should self-isolate as a close contact. Here, the employer will be unable to confirm/identify who needs to self-isolate without knowing individual employees’ vaccination status.

Employers should only obtain details of employees’ vaccination status when that data is required to manage specific self-isolation requirements, it may be possible for employers to point to a lawful basis for processing that data in order to determine who is required to self-isolate. The data must be processed in accordance with the data protection principles. 

Related Articles:

- Let's Get Topical - The Vaccine Policy

- Care Home Workers & Mandatory Vaccinations: The New Regulations


Posted in Coronavirus


The new standard in payroll software, now available for employers in the UK and Ireland.

UK Website  Ireland Website

Bright Contracts

Create tailored professional employment contracts and staff handbooks. Available for employers in the UK and Ireland.

UK Website  Ireland Website