Rebecca Goudy

Associate Solicitor

DATE PUBLISHED: 20 Oct 2020 LAST UPDATED: 23 Feb 2022

What to do if an employee tests positive for Covid-19?

Employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of their employees in the workplace. This involves ensuring that the workplace is a safe and covid-secure environment.

Given the significant rise in the number of cases in the UK over the last few weeks, it is almost inevitable that at some point in time, an employee may develop symptoms of Covid-19 and will be required to take a virus test.

What if an employee has symptoms?

An employee should not attend the workplace if they have any symptoms for coronavirus. If the employee develops symptoms at the workplace they should inform their employer immediately and go home to self-isolate. They should avoid touching anything in the workplace and should wash their hands regularly using a separate bathroom where possible.

The employee should alert those people that they have had close contact with in the 48 hours before developing symptoms and if these are co-workers, the employee should request that the employer alerts those co-workers. At this stage, close contacts do not need to self-isolate.

The employee should obtain a test as soon as possible and within the first 5 days of displaying symptoms. Employers should only advise employees to obtain an NHS test if they have symptoms of coronavirus.

What if an employee tests positive?

If an employee tests positive, NHS Test and Trace will notify their close contacts and will instruct them to self-isolate (or continue to self-isolate if they are already doing so) for 10 days from the point of developing symptoms or 10 days from the date of the test if they do not have any symptoms. They should inform their employer of the positive test result.

Upon receiving notification of a positive test result, employers do not necessarily need to close the workplace but this should be thoroughly cleaned in accordance with the Government’s guidance.

It is recommended that employers keep their employees informed about COVID-19 cases in the workplace however, employers must consider GDPR implications and should not name the affected employee.

Employees who have been in close contact with the affected employee do not need to self-isolate unless they are requested to do so by Test and Trace or have any symptoms for coronavirus. If they are instructed to self-isolate, this will be for a period of up to 14 days.

What if an employee tests negative?

If the employee tests negative they do not need to self-isolate as long as no other member of their household or support bubble has any symptoms or has tested positive and also providing that they have not been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. They can therefore return to the workplace.

What if there are several cases of Covid-19 in the workplace?

If there is more than 1 case of Covid-19 in the workplace, employers should contact their local health protected team for public health advice and to report the suspected outbreak. Please see the following click here to find your local health protection team.

Practical considerations

Whilst the government’s guidance must be followed, we recommend that employers implement a clear policy which details what action the employer will take, should an employee develop symptoms of Covid-19 or produce a positive test. Before implementing a policy we suggest that you consult with employees and consider any suggestions or concerns that they may have. This will ensure transparency for both employers and employees. At all times, employers should carefully consider their risk assessments and take any necessary action should an employee develop symptoms of Covid-19.

Contact us

For any employment or HR advice please contact our employment partner, Kate Brooks on 01202 057754 or email

How can we help?

When you submit this form an email will be sent to the relevant department who will contact you within 48 hours. If you require urgent advice please call 01202 525333.

Make an enquiry

Related news

4 minute read

5 commonly asked questions by employers about secondments

Read more
4 minute read

What is a voluntary severance scheme? Your questions answered.

Read more
4 minute read

Menopause in the workplace – what needs to be in an employer’s policy

Read more
3 minute read

Are employees allowed to use AI at work?

Read more