Lateral Flow Testing (LFT) within workplaces

Lateral flow testing (LFT) within workplaces

Lateral flow testing is a quick way to test whether people have COVID-19. It is normally used to test people who do not have symptoms of coronavirus.

We know that a significant proportion who test positive for coronavirus have no symptoms and can therefore spread it unknowingly. So, testing people without symptoms is an important additional tool to identify people with the virus, and therefore stopping the virus spreading through communities.

What's lateral flow testing?

Lateral flow testing is a quick way to test whether people have COVID-19. It is normally used to test people who do not have symptoms of coronavirus.  

We know that a significant proportion who test positive for coronavirus have no symptoms and can therefore spread it unknowingly. So, testing people without symptoms is an important additional tool to identify people with the virus, and therefore stopping the virus spreading through communities.

View government guidance on lateral flow testing.

What's the difference between PCR and lateral flow types of testing for COVID-19?

PCR testing (standard test)

PCR stands for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing. A swab is used to collect a sample from the patient's tonsils and inside their nose. This is then tested for small fragments of the virus called RNA.

This is then sent to a laboratory where it is processed using specialist equipment. Because it needs to be sent away, the PCR testing takes longer, around one to two days.

Lateral flow testing (rapid test)

As with PCR testing, lateral flow testing involves a swab being inserted into the nose or throat. However, instead of sending the sample away the sample can be processed on site. The swab is inserted into a tube of liquid for a short time which extracts any COVID-19 virus.

A few drops of liquid are then dropped onto a small strip. Within 30 minutes, the strip of paper will show up with two lines if it is positive, one line on the top if it is negative or one line on the bottom if the test is invalid.

You can watch this Department of Health video explaining the LFT testing procedure:

How do I access lateral flow tests for my workplace?

Anyone in England who does not have symptoms can now get regular lateral flow tests to check for coronavirus. Everyone in England can now access free, regular, rapid coronavirus (COVID-19) testing.

It’s free, easy and quick.

There are several routes to access home test kits or visit a testing centre.

Testing centres

You can get tested at any of our rapid test centres (find out more about rapid testing, including where our centres are). The testing centres are safe and social distancing measures are in place at all times.

Home test kits

Find a pharmacy where you can collect rapid tests.

Order rapid lateral flow home test kits online

Find out more about rapid tests.

Anyone testing at home will need to register their results online or by calling 119. If the result is positive they should self-isolate and book a confirmatory PCR test by visiting GOV.UK - get a Coronavirus test.

Remember, the rapid tests should not be used if you have any COVID symptoms - if you have COVID symptoms you must isolate immediately and book a PCR test.

Find out how to manage COVID-19 cases in the workplace.

Does a positive case need to self-isolate?

Yes. Anyone who tests positive from a rapid test must self-isolate, along with their household, immediately and their contacts will be traced. If a negative standard test is obtained within 2 days of the positive rapid test result, the individual no longer needs to self-isolate and contact tracing will cease.

Please follow the most up to date local authority employers flow chart to manage cases and notify public health teams.

How :

To notify the local public health team of a case (or cases) of COVID-19 in your workforce, call 01234 718141 (office hours Monday to Friday) or email public.health@bedford.gov.uk (7 days a week). Emergencies out of hours should be escalated to the service director who may contact the Director of Public Health.

Should people who have tested positive with a rapid test go for a confirmatory standard (PCR) test?

Yes.

All individuals who receive a positive LFD test result will be encouraged to take a follow-up standard test, whether the rapid test was assisted or self‑reported.

For assisted rapid tests

For rapid tests undertaken under supervised conditions, a positive result will trigger the legal duty to self-isolate and initiate contact tracing. If a negative confirmatory standard test is obtained within 2 days of the positive rapid test result, the individual no longer needs to self-isolate and contact tracing will cease. If the confirmatory standard test is taken too late, the individual who got a positive rapid test result, (and their household) will need to self-isolate for the full 10 days. The standard test can be taken at a test site or at home.

Notification of a positive assisted rapid test result or notification of being a contact will be treated, as now, as the trigger for access to the Test and Trace Support Payment (TTSP) (for those eligible). The payment will not be recovered where there is a subsequent negative PCR result and those notifications are rescinded.

For home rapid tests

For rapid tests done at home, the legal obligation will only commence once a positive standard test is confirmed, but anyone who has received a positive rapid test result should still self-isolate (along with members of their household) as soon as they get the positive rapid test result. The standard test can be taken at a test site or at home.

Someone who self-reports a positive rapid test result is asked to self-isolate immediately with other members of their household, but is asked to take a follow-up standard test – and it is a positive standard test result that triggers the legal duty to self-isolate, access to TTSP (if eligible) and contact tracing. If a negative confirmatory standard test result is obtained within 2 days of the positive rapid test result, the individual no longer needs to self-isolate and contact tracing will cease.

The employee and their household should isolate for 10 days starting immediately. You, as the employer, should keep a record and comply with workplace and NHS test and trace contact tracing. Find out how to manage COVID-19 cases in the workplace.

What happens if an employee tests negative?

A negative test means the virus was not found in the swab. It is possible for rapid tests to miss individuals who are early on in their COVID-19 infection. Therefore, although the employee does not need to isolate, they must continue to take all precautions including social distancing, wearing a mask and regularly washing their hands.

Follow the latest government rules. If they develop symptoms, they must isolate immediately, and book a standard test online or by phoning 119.

Should staff who have tested positive be re-tested before they return to work?

No. Staff who have previously tested positive, via a rapid test and a confirmatory standard test, and have completed their 10-day self-isolation shouldn't be re-tested for a period of 90 days from their last positive test result. This is because these people will no longer be infectious and are therefore safe to return to work (once well) but may still have traces of the virus which would be detected by a test.

Should I test staff who have received a COVID-19 vaccination?

Yes. The vaccine offers them protection against COVID-19 but may not prevent them from acquiring and passing on the virus to others.

Find out more about the vaccine.

If an employee tests positive, should I identify close contacts for self-isolation?

Yes. A close contact is a person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, any time, from 48 hours before the person was symptomatic, up to 10 days from onset of symptoms (this is when they are infectious to others).

View a full list of who would be considered a close contact.

Identifying close contacts of a positive case will help determine who may need to self-isolate for 10 days to help stop the spread of the virus.

What are the risks and benefits of testing for my workplace?

The benefits include:

  • finding cases within the workplace stopping the disease spreading
  • identifying cases early means larger outbreaks are less likely to happen, which protects people’s health and can protect your business – ensuring it can continue to operate

The risks include:

  • taking care to carry this out properly
  • potential costs associated with a thorough testing programme – peoples time and resources
  • a risk that the testing won’t identify all cases and therefore ‘Hands, Face, Space’ measures still need to be in place and reinforced
  • there will be a small number of people who have a ‘false positive’ (where people test positive but do not have the disease) and therefore some people will self-isolate unnecessarily – it's important to carry out rapid testing in your workplace under strict protocols to minimise the false positives and false negatives (missed diagnoses)

What support is available to help me set up rapid testing in my workplace?

A member of the community testing team can give advice to ensure testing protocols are safe, effective and adhere to recommended testing guidelines.

How frequently should I test my staff?

To ensure you capture most people who are infectious, you will need to test everybody every 3 to 4 days or twice a week.