Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy for the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said:
"In light of fast-growing staff shortages, government should urgently review the criteria under NHS Test and Trace which requires anyone who has come into close contact with a positive Covid-19 case to self-isolate for ten days. The review should consider the merits of changes such as ‘test and release’ whereby staff who have been asked to self-isolate could return to work if they subsequently have two negative PCR tests over five days. This could potentially continue to protect the public while being more flexible to the needs of business.
“CIPD poll data shows that nearly six in ten (57%) HR professionals said their organisation faced staff shortages in the last month because of employees self-isolating after being contacted by NHS Test and Trace. This problem is only going to grow as the economy continues to open up after restrictions end, with the risk that disruption to organisations’ services and operations starts to have severe consequences for the public and business.
“In the meantime, employers will have to be flexible to cope with absent workers and mitigate against staff shortages by freeing up staff from less business-critical areas and using temporary workers where possible. Inevitably, businesses may have to compromise service at times to ensure guidance is followed.
“Many employees will be anxious about rising infection levels, so employers need to be mindful of the risks not just to physical health but also their employees’ mental wellbeing. Employers should continue to encourage people to work from home where possible, to reduce the number of contacts their staff have in the workplace or when travelling to work. For roles where employees need to be in the workplace, organisations should continue using measures to reduce staff contact, such as staggered start and finish times. Employers should also review layouts and consider the continued use of screens or barriers to reduce the number of people their workers come into contact within the workplace, or the wearing of masks as people move around.”
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