Should Companies Shoulder Employees' Covid-19 Tests?

Avoiding Legal Repercussions When Implementing Employees’ Covid-19 Tests

In this pandemic era, there are some parties who advise employers to fully shoulder employees’ Covid-19 tests. After all, employees make companies run so it makes sense for management to agree to pay for the testing. A safe workplace is desirable, right? However, not everyone agrees with that line of thinking. In some countries, testing each and every employee has legal implications.

The UK Scenario

In the United Kingdom, for example, an employee has to give the testing facility written permission to take blood tests then divulge the results of testing to the employer. The Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 is the law governing this. The testing facility has to keep results of blood tests as “sensitive personal data” which should remain confidential. This is especially applicable for employees’ Covid-19 tests in the ongoing pandemic.

Government Benefits if Employers Shoulder the Testing Cost

However, in the US, the e-commerce employer Amazon is putting together a system whereby Amazon employees would be tested. Certain Amazon facilities within the US have cases of Covid-19 infection already. The Amazon initiative is particularly beneficial since it removes the need for the US government to initiate employees’ Covid-19 tests. Though laudable, admittedly testing for the virus is quite expensive. Observers can see Amazon in a favourable light since their initiative is perceived as a proactive community service.

Should Asymptomatic Employees Also Be Tested?

Another problem is that not all employees may show symptoms of the Covid-19 infection right away after exposure. So, this creates another problem since some employees may claim the right not to be tested since they lack the initial symptoms. It is advisable for employers who want to conduct mandatory testing of each and every employee to seek legal counsel first.Should Companies Shoulder Employees' Covid-19 Tests?

Can “False Positives” Be Ruled Out Definitely?

There is also the danger of “false positives” during testing. This means that an employee may be considered infected due to the test results, but the results are actually not accurate. False positives are a risk in any testing process. In such a scenario, employers would have to have “false positive” employees re-tested just to rule out errors. This means additional cost for employers who are already shelling out resources to conduct company-wide testing.

An employee who has been tagged positive for the virus may use personal funds to be re-tested for Covid-19. This is something no employee would want because each test is rather expensive. But it would help eliminate doubt about the employee’s health status.

It is also important to note that some employees may be tested negative one day but may become carriers of the virus the following day. This depends a lot on who the employees interact with even after the testing process has been done. Ideally, employees would exist in a “clean zone” wherein everyone and everything would be sanitized. But employers would have to develop a “bubble environment” wherein everyone could work without fear of contamination. Admittedly, this is an expensive prospect for any employer, particularly the smaller companies with less resources.

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