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Priority COVID testing for key workers - accelerated employer referral system

5th Oct 2020 / By Zoe Davies

Members continue to get in touch asking whether key workers, including those working in the agricultural industries, are able to be prioritised for Coronavirus testing.

Members who are concerned about staff getting access to tests should use the accelerated employers referral system as agricultural staff are indeed key workers and should get priority access. This includes those staff who are having to self isolate because another member of the household has symptoms.

There is some useful guidance HERE, including how to refer essential workers and the list of essential workers and those prioritised for testing (England only) 

It is also worth reminding yourself about the Government's test and trade guidance, which can be viewed HERE 

Employer referral for essential workers

Employers can refer essential workers for testing if they are self-isolating because either they or member(s) of their household have coronavirus symptoms.

They can do this by uploading the names and contact details of self-isolating essential workers to the secure employer referral portal.

Referred essential workers will then receive a text message with a unique invitation code to book a test for themselves (if symptomatic) or their symptomatic household member(s) at a regional testing site.

To get a login to the employer referral portal, employers of essential workers should email  with the following information:

•             organisation name

•             nature of the organisation’s business

•             region

•             names (where possible) and email addresses of the 2 users who will load essential worker contact details

Once employer details have been verified, 2 login credentials will be provided for the employer referral portal.

However, because of the issues with test availability at present, the Government has prioritised the test availability further to those working in the NHS and care homes and to those in areas with enhanced lockdown measures so we advise that employers register with the scheme as soon as possible as there is often a delay in getting registered.    

We have flagged the issue of test availability with Defra at various levels, and with the NFU as this will be a cross sector issue, especially as we head into the winter season.

Whilst we understand that it is tempting to get all staff tested just in case, the Government has asked that only people who have symptoms, or those isolating because another member if the household has symptoms should present themselves for testing at the present time.

Managing staff 

I also want to remind everyone, as levels of infection rise, of the continued importance of managing staff in the best way they can. That could meanm for example, keeping workers apart where feasible, introducing more shift working and alternating breaks.